June 19, 2024

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They put a sci-fi scenario on four wheels

They put a sci-fi scenario on four wheels

It sounds like a science fiction scenario, but it has been operating in Athens since 2018 Automotive design studioEspecially commercial vehicles, although the automotive sector in Greece remains completely non-existent to this day.

This arose when Wuzheng, a large Chinese conglomerate, founded in the field of agricultural and commercial vehicle industry, chose Greece as a base to promote its products on the European market. At the same time, wanting to get closer to Europe in terms of design, he sought out Greek designers in order to establish a design center in Greece. Wuzheng Europe currently manages all of the group’s stockists in Europe, having now established its own design studio.

Behind the design rooms is a showroom containing original objects: a tractor, a car dashboard, a truck cab, and a new truck. Pictured from left: Petros Mandovalos, Jonathan Kirchner, Stratos Christofidilis, Giorgos Kanellopoulos, Timos Sidiropoulos and Gabriel Perino.

The studio is located in Metamorfosi, where the company is also based. Behind the design rooms is a gallery of original objects: a tractor, a car dashboard, a truck cab, a new minivan, buttons printed on a 3D printer, color swatches on metal sheets, and a scale truck.

The team of designers and models consists of four Greeks (Efthimios Sidiropoulos, Petros Mantouflos, Giorgos Kanellopoulos, Stratos Christofidilis), Jonathan Kirchner from Germany and Gabriele Perrino from Italy.

Stratos Christofidilis, one of the first employees of the studio, will tell us: “Around the end of 2017, I learned that a Chinese car manufacturer was interested in establishing a design center in our country, and so the company’s directors Panos Tharonitis and Smith Thiepphongs approached the company. After discussions on how to organize such a project At the beginning of 2018, we decided to staff the country’s first vehicle design center with three designers, and soon more designers were added to the team.

They put on four wheels the Sci-Fi scenario-2
Panos Tharonitis, Managing Director of Wuzheng Europe.

Wuzheng Europe General Manager Panos Tharonitis adds: “At the end of 2017, the headquarters in China asked me if I knew any Greek car designers. I started searching and, magically, immediately found three. The children came from abroad with the intention of staying in Greece.” “The opportunity was clear, but the risk they were taking was also clear, as they would be working with a company that was completely unknown in Europe.”

It was clear, from the beginning of our discussion, that Greek designers were satisfied with the unexpected opportunity to find work on their subject in Greece, since pursuing a career in this particular sector, abroad is a one-way street.

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Everyone, without exception, decided to return from abroad. “The opportunity that presented itself, with the Chinese investment in Greece, was enormous, because in our country there is no tradition, prehistory in the car and in design in general,” comments Efthymios Sideropoulos.

“The whole project was started by Panos [Θαρουνιάτη]. Very bold, if you consider that it would make more sense for them to go to Italy, which is the Mecca of design,” says Petros Madovalos. “The incentives of living in a country where there is competition in this field are more, but you don’t have life,” says Giorgos Kanellopoulos. Offered by Greece, family and friends.

They put on four wheels the Sci-Fi 3 scenario
Gabriel Perino saw the opportunity as an “adventure”, knowing how different things compared to the northern European studios.

The light, climate, monuments, vibrancy and even chaos of Athens are sources of inspiration for Jonathan and Gabrielle, who have been working in the studio for the past two years. “This professional show was a unique opportunity in many ways. The city is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, it may not be perfect but it has a soul. It is full of life in every corner. As a designer, I want everything I create to have character and soul,” says Jonathan. .

Gabriel saw this opportunity as an “adventure”, knowing how different things were compared to studios in Northern Europe, so he could better balance work and personal life. “I observe and explore ancient monuments, proportions and volumes in architecture and sculpture, because our work is also based on design based on proportions and balance of volumes.”

The names of designers who excel abroad are mentioned – Kovos, Zapatinas, etc. – There is deadly talk about Greece’s non-existent investments in research, development and design, and about the demand for design in general. The only other studio doing pure design in Greece is BIC Studio.

What does an automobile designer do? “It’s a completely unknown job,” says Efthymios Sidiropoulos. “They think we do graphic design. Even people from our close environment don’t understand exactly what we do.”

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The group’s companies manufacture everything from trucks, tractors, tricycles to garbage trucks.

Car design is an example of product design, as the car is a very complex product that requires many and varied design skills, artistic talent, and technical knowledge. The appearance, components, ergonomics and aerodynamics of vehicles are in the hands of vehicle designers.

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“The big difference with art,” explains Efthymios Sideropoulos, “especially in a car, is the cost and the mechanics. We try with the means at our disposal to do the best we can. There is never freedom to do what you want. This is design, we are not making art. “With a million dollars it’s very easy. But making a car worth ten thousand euros, which is supposed to sell for three million euros, that’s where the challenge lies. That’s where you know if you’re a really good designer.”

They put on four wheels the Sci-Fi scenario 5
“As a rule, the company does not build vehicles from scratch. We buy old trucks and do a ‘facelift’ on them, that is, we change their exterior and interior appearance, for example, the cabin, dashboards, doors, seats, etc. We are basically changing our brand,” says Petros Madovalos. “.
They put on four wheels the sci-fi scenario-6

As for what exactly they are designing, Giorgos Kanellopoulos, the studio’s director, tells us: “We work for all the companies in the group, which make everything from trucks, tractors and tricycles to garbage trucks. We are active everywhere, and we have even drawn up ‘conceptual’ plans.” For autonomous driving, because the company also owns such technologies, while other subsidiaries deal with IT.

“Since we are a small studio, we have to be prepared for anything from a wrench to a full truckload. We have completely designed a tricycle, a very popular vehicle in the Chinese market, for mass production. However, as a rule, the company does not build Vehicles from scratch. We buy old trucks and give them a “face lift”, i.e. we change their exterior and interior, for example, the dashboard, the doors, the seats, etc. “We basically change our brand,” adds Petros Madovalos To sell the same product multiple times.

Giorgos Kanellopoulos adds: “What we design here is for production. Abroad, because there is a hierarchy, young designers don’t do many things, and they hardly advance. But working for a Chinese company, they quickly gain enormous experience. They even introduced innovations such as user experience and user interface “It is a separate industry. The Chinese are very open to accepting new fields of design, because they have no tradition in this field and that is why many outstanding European designers have gone to China.”

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They put on four wheels the sci-fi scenario -7
Everyone agrees that design is about team. You have to cooperate and accept criticism.

The discussion turns to new design trends now dictated by electrification, the emergence of autonomous driving systems, connected mobility, but also the change in the model of car ownership. Appearance, style and fashion now take second place. The major changes brought about by these developments focused on the interior areas of cars, which were transformed into living and entertainment spaces. Spending more time in the car, you want to be connected, have access to communications, and be able to do what you do at home in the car. From there, moreover, the money will come from the applications you will download and from using the Internet. In general, sales in the markets will also increase, because instead of driving, you will be able to sit in the back seat, shop, play games, etc.

Besides talent, what are the requirements to become a car designer?

Everyone agrees that design is about team. You have to cooperate and accept criticism. People should love the design, you don’t do it yourself. Many talented car designers don’t advance because of their egos.

When studio director Giorgos Kanellopoulos was asked about their ambitions going forward, he replied: “For the company to do well, grow, and get more assignments. If that happens, additional designers will be needed.”

They put the sci-fi scenario 8 on four wheels
“If the project succeeds, others can believe it, dare it, and there will be other car design studios in our country,” say the Greek designers.

How good is Athens at attracting other companies?

Today, with the Internet, you can open a studio wherever you want. In fact, as they told me, big companies are already doing this, they are opening in ideal locations, in Nice, Barcelona, ​​because of the weather and the environment. “Having a studio in Athens is great, but companies don’t know it. In addition, the cost compared to Munich, for example, is much lower. If the project turns out to be successful here, others can believe it and dare to copy it.”

“We have to contribute so that Greece becomes a destination for specialized employees from other countries as well, people who will bring with them valuable knowledge and a different culture,” stresses Stratos Christofidilis.