When Klaus Bischoff, Chief Designer of the Volkswagen brand, talks about the ID. BUGGY, he can’t hide his enthusiasm. An interview about older cars, new designs and emotional e-cars.
Mr. Bischoff, as a vehicle designer you deal with vehicles of the future. Why are we meeting you at a classic car event?
Klaus Bischoff: Because you get a cross-section through different epochs in a very concentrated space. In this way, the development of automotive mobility can be traced in detail over a few hundred meters – both technical and design progress. You can see very clearly what has continued to exist or developed further. That’s what makes it so exciting.
In addition there is the royal environment at the Concourse d'Elegance in Chantilly.
That's it. I already had the honor to be in Pebble Beach and at Amelia Island in the USA. But there’s just one more facet to this. You’re standing here in architecture steeped in history. The castle behind us breathes history and, of course, gives the whole thing a worthy setting, which is marked by French savoir-vivre.
The Concourse d'Elegance Chantilly, officially Chantilly Arts & Elégance Richard Mille, alongside the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este on Lake Como and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California, is one of the most important design competitions in the automotive industry. The event took place for the fifth time this year and attracted no less than 18,000 people to the small town, about 50 kilometers north of Paris. The Volkswagen ID. BUGGY won the Audience Award.
The special thing about the French classic car competition is the venue. The historic vehicles are exhibited and awarded prizes in the shadow of the impressive Château de Chantilly. It was built in the 16th century as a magnificent Renaissance castle. In the course of the century, its inhabitants transformed the castle into a baroque complex, which still inspires today.
Not least due to the impressive 115 hectare castle park with fountains and large water areas as well as an English garden, an English-Chinese garden and its own small forest. Built in the 19th century at the instigation of the Duke of Aumale, the horse racecourse still hosts the famous "Prix du Diane" every June.
Do you own a vintage car?
Not any more. My time just doesn’t allow me to take care of these precious things. It’s about driving the vehicles. Unfortunately, I can’t do that with my workload. But cars are not made for standing around.
How does a car become a classic at all?
By satisfying all the to-dos correctly. First: The car must be something special. It’s not enough just to be different. Secondly, the functionality must also be right. So you have to fulfill various parameters and bring them into the equation. The car has to mean something to people, solve problems, and create access.
What’s the first car that comes into your head?
The Beetle, of course. Take a look at its history. What was special about the Beetle? The design, the technology, the concept, the way it was built. But most importantly, it has become an icon because it has given millions of people access to mobility. It has opened the door to a new world that was previously closed to people. Preceding the Beetle, only the rich went on holiday by car, not everyone. This is important to understand in relation to the Volkswagen brand: We do things that are relevant to people. In the case of e-mobility, this comes into play again. We want to make electric mobility accessible to everyone. And in a sustainable way.
Speaking of Beetles. The original Buggy was made in California on the basis of a Beetle. Now you are presenting the ID. BUGGY1 here. Why this new edition of the classic?
This has to do with the possibilities that electric mobility offers us designers. With an electric motor drive, we have greater creative freedom, which we celebrate by creating entirely new typologies. But always with reference to the history of the brand. The ID. BUGGY was not about copying the past, but about putting a retro-free interpretation onto wheels. A pure electric concept. If you compare the ID. BUGGY with the original Buggy, you can see that it is completely different. But the soul that lives in it, the freedom of driving without a roof and without a door – it's the same. Sit in it, drive, have fun and in the end I can even wash the interior out. It’s as simple, as puristic, as simple as automotive mobility can be – pure driving fun.
When it comes to electro-mobility, people often talk about technology, especially the battery. What role does design play?
The design is key and a catalyst: the product attractiveness, the coherence to the brand, the coherence to the functionality, the fun, the user experience, the integration into the digital infrastructure – all this has points of contact with design or is itself a design field. Our goal as designers is to inspire people: If we can get them to say: “That’s cool, that’s crazy, that’s what I want” – we've done everything right.
So it's about emotions.
That’s it. A car always has to do with emotions. Designers create mobility in an emotional way. At least that’s an important aspect of it. We want to enrich people’s lives in a special way. People’s hearts should be opened with our vehicles.
How do you deal with “charging anxiety” of potential e-car buyers?
We want to take it away from them. Volkswagen will make electric driving problem-free and make it more widespread. Affordability, simplicity, range: I shouldn’t have to worry about all these things anymore. With ID.32, ID. BUZZ3 and ID. VIZZION4, we have already shown that we can design the various forms of mobility with a sure hand. With the ID. BUGGY, we are now showing how a product that is simply fun, can be electric. Because you can have fun, that is expressly permitted. It shouldn’t always be dead serious, but also cool.
How do you add emotion to car design?
This is relatively simple: by conceiving the proportions, the design, the characteristics, the language of form in such a way that people understand them. The ID. BUGGY has an extremely sympathetic face. Just now, a lot of children were standing in front of it. They find their way here naturally because the car looks friendly towards them, not aggressive. Sympathy is of great importance. Beetle, Bulli, Buggy: these are totally sympathetic products. This also applies to the Golf, ID.3 and also the ID. BUZZ.
The most common sentence you hear from visitors here is: “Oh, it doesn’t have any doors”.
That’s good. Even the original Buggy stood as an icon for freedom and carefree Californian lifestyle. The ID. BUGGY will also achieve that, once we put it on the road. Once you sit in it and drive, you immediately understand what I mean by that. It just pins the grin to your face. You can wave or shout to people at the side of the road. You can hear birds chirping and feel the wind. I can drive through the water on the beach without any rattling and smell the sea air. This is a completely new mobility and driving experience.
We are near Paris, the capital of fashion. The vehicles here are presented together with Haute Couture. What do vehicle design and fashion have in common?
There is timeless fashion that survives generations. And there is fashion that is simply fashionable, so great for a season. A firework, everyone says “Wow” – but the following year nobody will talk about it anymore. That’s not the Volkswagen way. Our path is the path of sustainability, time durability and longevity. Like a great dress that can still be taken out of the wardrobe after a few years and still looks fantastic. That’s what it’s all about: To do something that is durable over time. This thought lives in well-designed fashion and this thought also lives in our products.
2 The vehicle is not yet for sale