The tiny purple electric Pop city car, created by Kia, was one of the highlights of this year’s Paris Motor Show. The designer behind the exciting car is Peter Schreyer, chief of design for Kia, and created the Korean car's distinctive ‘tiger nose.’ This highly-respected and well-liked design director was also responsible for producing one of the most iconic cars of all time, the Audi TT.
Why did you decide to create a small electric concept for Paris?
There was the idea to do a small electric car as Paris is a big city. We got a lot of inspiration from outside the car industry, like the furniture field. We had two proposals, one would have been great if we had wanted a production model. But we took the one that was really special. Everybody loved it. This is why we made it this way, if it’s a car that you smile at and that smiles back at you, it’s almost like a pet.
Do electric vehicles give car designers more freedom?
No matter what engine a car has we have to obey certain regulations, human measurements, technical constraints and costings, so in some ways electric cars have to follow the same rules as conventional cars. But it allows more freedom. I wouldn’t mimic the outline of a conventional car if I had other possibilities, if I did not need an engine compartment I wouldn’t make a long hood, because I wouldn’t need it. If it’s an electric car it should express that but it should also express what it is, it’s not just about being different and saying 'Excuse me, I’m an electric car.’
The Soul has a fun interior – are interiors important to you?
Yes, a big proportion of my career I have worked on interiors. I look at the car as a whole, the interior and the exterior need to fit together. You buy the car because you see it in the shop but you live in the interior; it’s very important that a car suits you, it needs to fit like a glove.
Expectations have changed, nowadays you can’t just put cheap materials in smaller and cheaper cars. With interiors you have to calculate the cost, every single piece is discussed, what can you afford to do, or how can you design it in a way that gets round cost issues. We have a nice full-glass roof on the Sportage and Venga, our cost engineering people allowed us to do it, which is great.
Did you expect the Audi TT to become a design classic?
You can’t predict something like this, it would be presumptuous. But we knew it was something special. It has a long-lasting character and it still stands out a lot from the rest. The new TT doesn’t stand out as much as the old one did, the new one blends in more with the Audi product range. I think you can’t repeat history like that.
Do you expect to create an equally radical car at Kia?
We have a lot of freedom at Kia, I think that’s why I was hired, they wanted to make a big step in design and to make a big step you need some sort of freedom. The Pop is very special, it will probably influence future product at some point. This is a difficult question to answer: it doesn’t help if you have something radical if nobody buys it.
“It’s important to be really open to everything, it can be a mountain bike, furniture, music, the computer industry, or lighting or whatever.”
Furniture – La Chaise by Eames
Watch – IWC La Portuguesa
Building – the Eiffel Tower, Frank Gehry
Art – Cy Twombly
Music – Miles Davis, Bitches Brew