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‘We wanted a very clean design for the concept’

S Muralidhar | Updated on March 01, 2018 Published on March 01, 2018

Kenichi Ayukawa, MD & CEO, Maruti Suzuki, with CV Raman (right), Senior Executive Director, Engineering, during the launch of Concept FutureS at the Auto Expo 2018

CV Raman of Maruti Suzuki discusses the idea behind the creation of Concept Future S

 

Maruti Suzuki’s show stealer at the recent Auto Expo 2018 was the Concept Future S developed in-house by its R&D design team. Its youthful, aggressive design approach extends to the funky cabin too with its unique steering wheel and centrally positioned spherical human machine interface. CV Raman, Sr Executive Director, Engineering, dwells upon its future.

What is the Concept Future S meant to be, a design direction showcase or product concept?

It started off as a design intent and was driven by multiple factors. One, of course, is the prospect of increased SUV sales in the future. Two, the change in customer profile in terms of aspirations and need for a vehicle of this character even in the small car space. This was the brief when we started work on this concept.

Elements of that built into the concept are features like high ground clearance, good visibility, raised seating position, good interior space etc.

The designers were told to forget about engineering feasibility for the moment and look at creating a design direction vehicle.

But, looking at the fact that it has got good potential, and given our achievements with the concept in terms of proportions within that market segment, we feel that this could be developed into a high impact vehicle in the compact space. So, the plan was to create a vehicle concept that is smaller than the Vitara Brezza fitting into the sub four-metre category.

From the execution of the concept it is clear that our intention was to deliver the message about the possibility of an SUV-style car in this segment, get feedback about this concept and initiate action based on the feedback.

What will be the character of a vehicle born out of this concept?

What we could have on our hand is an SUVish hatch. A vehicle that can deliver the attributes and benefits of an SUV within the proportions of a sub four-metre hatch.

All SUVs, whether compact or the bigger ones, offer the attributes of the SUV but are not essentially off-roaders or having that capability. But what you have here is only a two-wheel drive vehicle with the attributes of high ground clearance, bigger tyres and an upright stance, which allows a high seating position etc.

The SUV has become an aspirational body style across segments. So, while there is a market for premium hatches in the same size category, which is just under four metres, there is also a strong demand pull for a compact SUV.

Case in point is the Vitara Brezza, again though it is not capable of off-roading at the same level as a real SUV. So, the key factor in creating a vehicle like that, which only offers the attributes of an SUV, is whether you can stitch it together to make it look good in that proportion.

With the Vitara Brezza also the challenge was the sub-four-metre size and with this concept the challenge will be to go one step lower in terms of body size.

Can the attractive, novel A-pillar and notchback style rear be executed in the production version of this subcompact SUV/hatch?

It was one of the wow features of the concept but that’s really meant to showcase possibilities. It will have to be checked for absorption and safety but I don’t think it can make as is.

It is a design element connecting the concept, which we felt will give it a novel character. This also borrows influences from the classic American ‘50s cars with its curved windscreen glass and shapely roofline.

We wanted a very clean design for the concept and didn’t even add handles to the doors while shifting our design plan to include suicide doors. The clean side body and front gives the design a certain purity. But, yes there are design influences that have come in from the Swift, for example in the A-pillar and in the daylight opening.

Will this concept fit into Maruti’s plans for hybridising and/or electrifying its models?

Currently, our platforms have a potential for hybridisation. But, 100 per cent electrification is a study, which we need to do. We have announced that we will have a model by 2020 and we will need to make some choices for that vehicle after the market and consumer studies are complete.

But, in an electric the weight goes up by 200-250 kg, which means that you have to reengineer all the underpinnings of the platform. Any choice we make will need extensive reengineering.

We do not have an EV-specific platform at the moment. Till now we have only looked at hybridisation but haven’t considered full electrics. From now, though, we have to look at developing platforms that will allow us to develop EVs.

There are challenges like how to lay out and pack the batteries, which can weigh up to 250 kg. It has to be located under the floor and under the seat, so other issues like how to mount it, and manage the interface of the suspension and rear wheel housing will become relevant. And then this EV has to be durable for Indian roads.

Does this mean that hybridisation will take precedence?

We are very clear that we will work on hybridisation first. We want to take hybrids and create an ecosystem for these kinds of vehicles and let the consumer understand the basics of batteries and power electronics.

This will enable them to grow into electric vehicles, the charging infrastructure can be developed simultaneously, and the laws for electricity distribution, consumption and urban development may need to be amended. The Centre also needs to identify where electrification needs to happen first and in my view it must be public transport first.

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Published on March 01, 2018
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