Indian SUV archetype, distinct from global expectations: Carl Gotham, Design Director, MG Motor – Times of India

SUVs are now an obsession among Indian car buyers and apart from the numbers themselves, the runaway success of all new brands such as MG Motorand Kia that recently entered the market with family SUVs establishes that as a fact. Today, both new and legacy car brands are betting on the SUV body style to gain market share and sustain growth in the coming years.We even saw the country’s largest automaker, Maruti Suzuki, aggressively expand its SUV portfolio in under one year despite its Brezza SUV being one of the top sellers in the segment. To understand the challenges and benefits for an international brand coming into the Indian market and creating a foothold on the back of SUV models, we recently spoke toCarl Gotham, European Advanced Design Director, SAIC Motor which owns MG Motor.

Carl Gotham, European Advanced Design Director, SAIC Motor

Carl Gotham, European Advanced Design Director, SAIC Motor

Gotham told TOI Auto, “Designing cars for India comes with its own unique set of challenges and considerations. The diverse road conditions, ranging from smooth highways to uneven roads, demand cars with robust suspension and ground clearance. India’s varying climates require efficient air conditioning systems and weather-sealing. Traffic congestion in Indian cities emphasises the need for manoeuverable, compact cars that can easily navigate tight spaces. Price sensitivity drives the importance of affordability without compromising on quality, safety, or fuel efficiency. Indian families prefer spacious interiors for comfortable travel, and cultural preferences influence design aesthetics. Safety standards are evolving, and connectivity features are increasingly in demand. In a nutshell, designing cars for India involves a delicate balance between addressing these unique challenges and meeting the budget and aspirational needs of Indian consumers.”
According to the design director, it is the SUV body style that fulfils most of these requirements and helps mitigate the majority of the challenges for a carmaker, who is looking to build a car for India. “In the diverse Indian landscape, an SUV is not merely a recreational vehicle; it’s a multifaceted workhorse. Consequently, Indian SUV aficionados demand a harmonious blend of robust off-road capabilities, heightened ground clearance, and a comfortable urban commuting experience, all while being conscious of cost implications. The Indian SUV archetype, to my mind, converges the ruggedness demanded by challenging terrains with the comfort, adaptability, cost-efficiency, and requisite for everyday urban usage, setting it distinctly apart from global expectations. ” Gotham said.

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He further pointed out that the emergence of the EV market will further push the envelope for carmakers where they would be required to fulfil the dual-purpose mandate of the Indian car buyer. However, shifting to an electric architecture also offers its own set of benefits such as added space and lightweight construction. “This architectural reconfiguration unlocks the potential for expansive cabin interiors and inventive storage solutions. Concurrently, the designer’s purview expands to optimizing aerodynamic performance, a fundamental element in augmenting the vehicle’s range, compelling the crafting of sleeker, more streamlined exteriors. The EV’s sustainability mandate propels designers into the realm of eco-friendly material selection and the exploration of lightweight construction methodologies. Additionally, the seamless integration of advanced battery systems into the vehicle’s structural framework becomes imperative. It is clear to me that the advent of EVs invokes a multidimensional design approach, demanding the amalgamation of aesthetic prowess, performance enhancement, and ecological conscientiousness.”

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