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#22: Gilles Vi­dal, de­sign di­rec­tor, Peu­geot

Top Gear (UK) - - COLUMNS -

Retro de­sign is about try­ing to find the flavour, the taste or the flair of an iconic thing, but for rel­e­vant, mod­ern rea­sons. But what does mod­ern mean? Most peo­ple think it means be­ing turned to­wards the fu­ture, but it ac­tu­ally means bring­ing cor­rect an­swers in your own time. So, if peo­ple are re­spond­ing pos­i­tively to vin­tage or retro stuff, then it’s cor­rect, it’s a mod­ern thing to do.

Truth is, I don’t ac­tu­ally con­sider the e-Leg­end to be retro de­sign. We wanted to recog­nise the sil­hou­ette of the 504 Coupe and some de­tails as well, but it’s not try­ing to be the old car, there’s a fu­tur­is­tic form lan­guage. The in­te­rior uses vin­tage ma­te­ri­als, of course, like the colour­ful vel­vet and the brass, but noth­ing in terms of shapes, ar­chi­tec­ture or graph­ics – ex­cept per­haps the shape of the seats – is try­ing to be retro.

There’s no deny­ing that retro is a strong trend at the mo­ment, though. His­tor­i­cally you see more of it at mo­ments of panic or when there’s uncer­tainty about where the world is go­ing. Think back 10 to 15 years, to the come­back of the Ca­maro, Charger and Chal­lenger. It was a mo­ment of cri­sis in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try and all of a sud­den we see a mass re­make of mus­cle cars, to re­live the golden era of the US and res­ur­rect the Amer­i­can dream.

These days there’s an eco­nomic war go­ing on in the world, plus uncer­tainty about en­ergy and au­ton­o­mous driv­ing. We as de­sign­ers have a very en­thu­si­as­tic vi­sion of what comes next, but it’s a scary time… prob­a­bly why for the last two to three years we’ve seen this trend emerg­ing strongly again.

You’ll see a lot of fu­tur­is­tic con­cepts around, with a sci­encefic­tion kind of out­look, but doesn’t science fic­tion al­ways pre­dict a very dark fu­ture where hu­man­ity has to solve some­thing to save its own ex­is­tence? With the e-Leg­end we de­cided to avoid all that and pro­pose a more en­thu­si­as­tic fu­ture. We chose to say that au­ton­o­mous driv­ing is some­thing pos­i­tive – it will in­crease safety and give you your time back – but we needed to give au­ton­omy the shape of some­thing op­ti­mistic and vi­brant. Hon­estly, we picked the 504 Coupe be­cause it’s the 50th an­niver­sary of that car, but the core idea was to ex­press that the fu­ture will not be bor­ing, and it will not be scary. In French we call it con­tre-pied, wrong-foot­ing you, do­ing the op­po­site of what you ex­pect.

I think when EV and au­ton­omy are prop­erly es­tab­lished, there will be many trends co-ex­ist­ing in the au­to­mo­tive land­scape. Hu­mans are fond of di­ver­sity. You will see su­per-fu­tur­is­tic pods, you will see nor­mal-look­ing cars, you will see vin­tage and retro mod­els, all with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy in­side. Vin­tage and retro will al­ways be a thing be­cause peo­ple don’t want to lose mem­o­ries of the past, and love re­mem­ber­ing the good times.

There is also a trend to­wards re­viv­ing and pre­serv­ing ana­logue things, which is why, even in the 3008, we stuck with pi­ano-key-style tog­gle switches, and big bits of wood right next to touch­screens, to get this bal­ance be­tween dig­i­tal and ana­logue. Of course, the e-Leg­end pushes that to the ex­tremes, but you see this jux­ta­po­si­tion ev­ery­where. In our homes we have more and more con­nected ob­jects, yet we still buy vin­tage fur­ni­ture. When the world is mov­ing too fast in one di­rec­tion, you find a way to bal­ance it with some­thing else.

“You see more ‘retro’ at mo­ments of panic or when there’s uncer­tainty about where the world is go­ing”

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