BEIJING – German automaker Daimler AG inaugurated its fifth Mercedes-Benz Global Advanced Design Center in Beijing on Thursday, a sign of the growing importance of the Chinese automobile market’s influence on the changing needs and trends in vehicles.
It is the first functional design center established by a premium vehicle brand in China. Another German luxury car brand, Audi AG, is also considering establishing a design center in Beijing. “We opened this center because we recognize the increasing importance of the Chinese market and the influence it is having on design trends and mobility solutions worldwide,” said Ulrich Walker, chairman and chief executive officer of Daimler Northeast Asia Ltd.
The other four Mercedes-Benz design centers are in Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. “The (Beijing) studio will play an essential part in our clearly defined strategy to ensure sustainable business growth. With China predicted to be our largest market globally by 2015, design influences from this region will become more important in the cars of tomorrow,” Walker said.
According to Steffen Kohl, head of Advanced Design Global Mercedes-Benz, the designers at all five centers play an important role in envisioning future vehicles not only next-generation production models, but models that will grace roads in three or more decades.
“As designers, we need to live in the future, thinking at least two or three vehicle generations ahead. For us, that means considering every aspect of future mobility, including things such as town planning and improvements in infrastructure. This new studio in Beijing will provide a creative environment for us all to indulge our imaginations, free of commercial constraints,” said Olivier Boulay, vice-president of the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Center of China.
The design team will draw on inspiration from their surroundings in China, taking into account cultural, and environmental influences, such as road congestion and shortage of parking.
The center has 10 staff members from different countries – including France, China, Malaysia, Japan and the Philippines – providing a multicultural environment.
According to Walker, the company’s smart e-scooter concept model, shown at last year’s Paris Auto Show, was designed by Mercedes’ Chinese designers in Beijing.
China’s crown as the world’s biggest automobile market has made the country not only the production base but also a research and development center for future vehicles in recent years.
As the importance of the country’s market grows, international automakers are starting to pay attention to Chinese consumers’ needs in vehicle design.
French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen was the first international automaker to have a wholly owned vehicle design facility in China, opened in September 2008, with an initial investment of 1 billion yuan ($154.9 million).