- Volkswagen Group’s head of design, Klaus Bischoff, shared Volkswagen's digital design process with Car and Driver in an online conference.
- Even with the move to computers, clay models are still an important part of the creation of a new car, Bischoff said.
- He remarked that creating the ID family of EVs was the biggest challenge of his career and that the automaker is currently working on a small EV for the city.
The digitization of automobile design has been accelerating over the past 10 years. Off-the-shelf software combined with enterprise-level applications allow for design elements to be completed in days or even hours that would have taken weeks by hand. Volkswagen Group’s head of design, Klaus Bischoff, recently demonstrated how Volkswagen goes from digital sketches to finished designs and what it means for the automaker’s future and current lineup.
The initial sketch of a vehicle is actually one of potentially dozens of sketches from VW designers and third-party partners all competing to make it into the final design showdown. From that horde, the number of sketches is pared down to three then two and finally one—although Bischoff did admit that sometimes the design goes from three to one.
From there the design is fine-tuned and created in a 3D environment. At this point, the designers start using VR headsets and controllers to build a digital representation. They don a headset and, using hand controllers, they can add, remove, and adjust elements of the vehicle.
Refinements are made, and even though the process is almost entirely digital at this point, the vehicle is eventually brought to life as a clay model. "We still have clay models, and the work with digital tools always ends coming to a physical model," Bischoff said. The models are used for presentations and to judge the design as something tangible.
Interior, exterior, even the amount of metallic flakes in the final available colors are all worked out in the computer and available for the entire team to inspect without having to be in the same room. Like everything else, shelter-in-place mandates have impacted the design of cars. But because so much has been digitized, the impact is much lower than it could have been.
Overall even with the digitization of most of the design aspects, from sketch to final locked-in design still takes about the same amount of time as before computers permeated the process. Bischoff said that sometimes it is a bit shorter but that, “cars have become more and more complicated. It’s a multi-million dollar or euro project. Production processes, law enforcement, and a lot of regulations have to be fulfilled."
The electrification of vehicles creates new opportunities but it’s not been a walk in the park. “The biggest challenge for my career has been to create the ID family from scratch together with my colleagues,” Bischoff notes that it was the experience of the lifetime that required the team to work quickly on new products coupled with a new technology base.
Within the ID family, Bischoff said that Volkswagen is rethinking the dash cluster, “HUD (head-up display) technology will replace the screen behind the steering wheel and the multimedia system will stay as it is.” Bischoff said. “We are designing along the technology development, but also pushing our engineers forward into new solutions on the ID family. You will see how far we can take HUD technology with augmented-reality features that will come to the market later this year.”
While that's coming in the future, another fun piece of information that Bischoff shared is that Volkswagen is currently working on a small EV for city driving. Volkswagen officials have talked about low-cost EV to help spur adoption of the technology, and this is likely the vehicle that will do that. Whether it makes its way to the United States is yet to be seen. The ID.3 won’t be sold here; instead, the first electric MEB-platform based car coming to the States will be the ID.4 SUV. Regardless of the market, the yet-to-be-announced small EV likely started off as a digital sketch on an iPad somewhere before being built in virtual reality.