by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

The development of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class: The Advanced Design Studio in Como/Italy

Integrated in the global Mercedes Design network, the designers at the Advanced Design Studio in Como find an inspiring environment for creative thoughts.

Always a good address: in the Villa Salazar near the shore of Lake Como, Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace used to produce bowties and neckties, before Mercedes-Benz opened the Advanced Design Studio here in February 1998. With its contemporary ceiling paintings, long corridors and different terracotta and wooden floors, the villa, built around 1750, is exceptionally inspiring for the around 20 designers who work here. This also holds true for the region itself: the famous triangle between the cities of Como, Milan and Turin is a centre of fashion and the furniture industry. Traditional crafts are highly valued there – an ideal environment for the Advanced Design Studio.

With its sister studios in Carlsbad (California), Tokyo, Beijing and Sindelfingen, the Advanced Design Studio in Como not only exchanges ideas, but also creative people. Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz, is responsible for all the Studios. Apart from the approximately 440 designers who take care of the series production vehicles, at the five Advanced Design Studios over 60 designers work on the concepts that have enabled the brand with the three-pointed star to look up to a quarter of a century ahead into the future.

A variety of inspirations flow into the concepts for the vehicle interior design – because this is what the Advanced Design Studio in Como has specialised in. Designers can allow their thoughts free rein without immediately having to think of series production. The latter is, of course, the final goal of the ideas and reflections. With the so-called "appreciation model" the designers first implement their ideal conceptions and then look for a way to translate these ideas to series production. This allows for a more consistent and higher-quality result than what would be obtained by upgrading the vehicle interior subsequently.

The tasks of the creative professionals in Como are numerous. They carry out normal research, develop drafts and build models – and always look beyond the horizon in order to develop the automobile interior of the future. A certain fine disregard for old conventional rules is desirable in order to find fresh approaches.

"We don't chase after fashion phenomena", says Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz, "we detect long-term trends which raise the value of our brand over the decades. Ideas which fulfil the highest requirements in terms of technology, performance, comfort and safety." A designer therefore has to "live in the future" and think two to three vehicle generations ahead of their time.

One of the first visible and tangible results produced by the Advanced Design Studios in Como was the interior of the Mercedes-Benz F 400 Carving research vehicle (Tokyo 2001). In 2002 the Vision GST, a forerunner of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, followed in Detroit; 2003 saw the debut of the F 500 Mind research vehicle (Tokyo). In 2005 saw the public appearance in Washington of the Mercedes-Benz bionic car, and the F 600 HYGENIUS in Tokyo. The Mercedes-Benz F 700 research vehicle presented in 2007 featured an interior design based on cork and Alcantara®. In 2011 Mercedes-Benz presented the research cars F125! and F800 Style as well as the Concept A-CLASS; all three featured interior appointments from Como. Many unusual details of the Concept A-CLASS take their cue from the realm of aviation. Diverse components were restructured: the instrument panel and the centre console, for instance, consist only of a complex brushed aluminium structure. The result is a transparent, light, bionic forming.

Credits: Daimler AG

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