The Car Design News editorial team shares their highlights of 2023 and what they hope to see in 2024
Well, 2023 was a busy one. In the spirit of reflection, the editorial team at Car Design News got together to narrow down their highlights of the year, from standout car launches to the most memorable moments in design.
This is always tricky and much like Christmas shopping for extended family, there were some that didn’t quite make the cut. Let’s hope that 2024 has more trips, talks and tales in store.
Like my colleague, the venerable F. Holmes, I had enormous fun tearing about the Bavarian countryside in some pretty exotic cars. Not least because one of those at my disposal was the Giugiaro-designed Scirocco, a car for which I have deep affection. Holmes’ occasionally heavy right foot deployed liberally in the BMW Z1 had me grasping onto my hat in the manner of a Victorian lady. Comedian Ronni Ancona ribbing the industry at the CDN People Awards was another highlight. My favourite moment had to be touring Milan with Pierre Leclerq in the Citroën Oli. I think it was fair to say we both felt like (minor) celebrities as we cruised through those historic streets.
Christmas Wish list
Gosh, so many things I would like to happen: for the Detroit Motor Show to undergo a renaissance; for designers to challenge SUV homogeneity (it can’t all be the battery’s fault); for the sustainability argument to continue to build momentum. Most of all, I would like the industry to rediscover its raison d’etre. The car industry is still undergoing an identity crisis and my feeling is that brands view themselves as the bad guys.
True, the industry has dealt itself some pretty brutal wounds (dieselgate still occupies a murky corner of some people’s minds). What hasn’t helped is increasingly draconian anti-car policies foisted upon city dwellers by low level bureaucrats in the name of the environment. But people rightly still love the freedom cars give them. The industry would do well to remember that. And so should the governing classes, to be frank.
This was an incredibly busy year for new cars, both production and concept, so tough to choose just one. To cover both bases, let’s go with Alfa’s 33 Stradale – finally a ‘special’ Alfa – and the Porsche Mission X, respectively. As for best moments, I did intend to sit down in my smokers chair and gaze into the middle distance in deep contemplation. No need, though, as one moment immediately stuck out: driving the exceptionally rare Alpina Z1 convertible from Munich to the quaint village of Freising for coffee and ice cream. Only 66 of these beauties were made, and it’s not clear how many are still going.
Christmas wish for 2024
There were some genuinely interesting, original concept cars on show in 2023. The Citroen Oli, Dacia Manifesto, Lancia Pu+Ra HPE and Pininfarina Pura Vision all come to mind. It would be wonderful to see designs like these actively influence production cars in a meaningful way, be it a carryover of technology or – one can hope – through a radical exterior or interior. Failing that, a DB7 in British Racing Green.
Unboxing the first copies of the Car Design Review X yearbook at Ultima’s west London headquarters with colleagues James McLachlan and Ahmo Saric was a special day. Six months or so in the cooking – and not without its tribulations – the majorly redesigned tenth edition nonetheless feels like a landmark edition. Not just because it denotes ten years of this hefty coffee table-dwelling tome.
Not just because it features superb award-winning cars inside – hats off to the Dacia Manifesto Concept Car Design of the Year and the Polestar 4 Production Car Design of the Year. But also because of the overall maturity of the product’s writing, photography, design and illustration. Thanks to the super-talented global editorial team who brought it to life and also to all the car designer judges who gave their time and well-considered creative thoughts and votes.
Christmas wish for 2024
Here’s to more intelligence in car design, more influence for car designers within their companies and more genuine sustainability in the products that launch in 2024.
This year I was thoroughly seduced by the Mercedes-Benz Vision One-Eleven concept revealed at the brand’s Carlsbad design studio (and appearing in the Autumn 2023 edition of Interior Motives).
Stefan Lamm, Steffen Köhl, and the rest of the Advanced Design team did a remarkable job translating the spirit of an experimental supercar that fell victim to the fuel crisis of the 1970s into a sleek, modern EV of the future, capturing the passion and emotion of the original without succumbing to the temptation to go retro. Better yet, the Vision One-Eleven is not just a pretty toy, but serves as a testbed for new technology including smaller, more efficient electric motors.
Christmas wish for 2024
My wish for the coming year is to continue to strengthen bonds between the people in our industry and to tell their stories in powerful and resounding ways. I was privileged to tour several design studios this year across Europe and the US, and have been humbled by the advocacy and trust shown by so many. We live in unprecedented times, with the proliferation of AI and the shift away from traditional motor shows, and I firmly believe that human connection is the glue that will hold us all together. A heartfelt thanks to my intrepid editor James McLachlan and the entire CDN team for sustaining a beautiful, symbiotic relationship as we strive to be the eyes, ears, and voice of the design community.
Visiting Milan Design Week was the highlight of my 2023. The city of DaVinci, Bramante, Rogers, Ponti, Touring Superleggera, Alfa Romeo, and many others past and present, has much to say about the future of the car. So many design disciplines were gathered together for a week of exhibits, trade shows and design dialogue.
I visited the Lancia Pu+Ra+HPE, a fabulous concept car for the storied Italian brand which sat on the Via Durini, just outside of Cassina’s showroom. Crowds gathered, including fashion models and design executives, risking life and limb standing in the street to get a better look. It was the kind of cross-discipline design dialogue we saw all over town: design, fashion, architecture, and yes, cars.
Karl’s Christmas wish
Dear Father Christmas,
Please leave under the tree (if you can),
Peace on earth, and Goodwill to Man.
A ticket to Geneva, London, and Milan
And an entry pass to that epic Furniture Salon
An urban car that is worthy of the name
And a three-box sedan that is not too tame
A bit of libation to chase away those Winter Blues,
And a million new readers for Car Design News!
Starting 2023 with my first visit to CES set the tone for a year in which UI/UX has continued to change rapidly. Las Vegas provided a great insight into the direction of tech developers, OEMs and designers. Conversations with the teams that created the BMW i Vision Dee and Peugeot Inception got the year off to a great start.
One of the biggest moments though was the international launch of the Aston Martin DB12. It wasn’t just that it was in Monaco with great roads and fantastic performance and dynamics to exploit, but that finally Aston is putting some serious effort into interiors. The new interior design language is nothing short of revolutionary for the marque and the results are very impressive.
Christmas wish for 2024
All I want for Christmas is balance. I’m not being all profound here, I’m talking about how we interact with our cars, particularly when it comes to UI/UX. We need a balance of buttons and touchscreens, interior designs that recognise the need for usability, safety, practicality and common sense. It’s a tricky balancing act and some are getting it right, others not, but there need to be more conversations. Technology should contribute to design, not define it.