CDR Insight Geneva 2012

The first of a new quarterly series of trend reports from the very capable and experienced heads at Car Design Research, CDR for people in the know, takes a look back at the prevailing and perhaps not so obvious trends that defined the Geneva Motor Show 2012.  Naturally you can find out more about CDR at their website but suffice it to say that it doesn't get more experienced than them.  Established in 2000 by Sam Livingstone to cater to an increasing need from the automotive industry for experienced 'objective' design assesment and managment CDR has steadily grown in influence and now can name Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Fiat, Nissan, Pininfarina, Yamaha and Hyundai amongst its clients.  Focusing on Contextual, Strategic, and Evaluation Services CDR is always at the design heart of the industry and keeps it relevant by researching consumer behaviour and trends worldwide.

CDR Insight Geneva 2012

The Geneva Motor Show just closed its doors on the 2012 show but looking back it was clear that one macro trend we’re witnessing is a return to some of the aesthetic values of the 1980s.  The red ‘pinstripe’ was everywhere in the halls of the Palexpo, showcasing a desire among both mainstream and premium manufacturers to differentiate their sport models further from the more luxury-orientated models within the range. â€¨The European markets aim at a new type of fashionable, boxy car; perhaps best represented by the new Fiat Panda, this car type combines the best aesthetic elements of both an MPV and SUV and makes utility cool again.

Circling the square: The Fashionable Box

A new ‘boxy’ car typology is emerging, that spans the A, B and C segment.  European-market focused, these cars combine the best elements of both SUV and MPV forms.  They step beyond the pure utility and starkness of the cars that created the genre – the Nissan Cube and Scion xB – by rounding off the square edges.  The core appeal is utility befitting of a people carrier, but with the blown fender forms, planted four-square stance and matt black plastic cladding of an SUV.

The first Scion xB, together with Nissan Cube, introduced a very new aesthetic.  With little planshape or tumblehome, it epitomised ‘box on wheels’, first becoming cool in the US and Japan during the 90’s.  Fiat’s new third generation Panda uses the ‘squircle’ as its core design theme and motif.  The idea of the squircle – a rounded square (or cube) – applies to all the cars here.  It helps define a new aesthetic language for the practical and robust small car. 

Citroen C3 Picasso was significant for introducing this aesthetic within the B-MOV segment.  Baring little visual relationship to C3 hatchback model, it has a relatively static, four-square stance.  The flat beltline and DLO are significant contributors to it’s more box-like and tough aesthetic.

Skoda Yeti is lower and more compact than a typical SUV, but captures much of the genre’s appeal.  Hits the market sweetspot by being too aggressive, quite car-like in size and not overly tall, thanks to its cleverly-managed body-to-glass ratio.  Graphics and details such as the roofrails lend an SUV-like rugged quality, core to its appeal.

More 'squircle' derived designs at the show:

mia rox                                                   Fiat 500L

Edag Light Car Sharing Concept

Kia Track'ster Concept

Back in fashion: Return of the Red Pinstripe

During the 1980’s, a red pinstipe suit was an expression of sartorial elegance.  Less fashionable today, the red pinstripe (a thin, red highlight line) has been picked up by car tuners to denote their sportier designs of alloy wheel.  In car design, the red pinstripe is one trend that’s part of a much wider return to themes seen in the ‘80s. Red pinstripes truly burst back onto the scene at the 2012 Geneva motor show.

Red pinstripes on the new 265 Trophy version of the Renault Sport Megane extend to the lower bumper aperture insert, rocker cover and alloy wheels. Of all the typologies on which we’d expect to find a red pinstripe , the ‘hot hatchabck’ is perhaps the most predictable.

It’s more of a surprise to see red on a premium hatchback such as the new Mercedes A-class. The red detailing on the front and rear bumper inserts on sport versions of the car are indicative of a trend by premium manufacturers to broaden the identities within their ranges between traditional luxury and sport variants.

The red highlight used on the daylight running light (DRL) blade in the Audi A1 Quattro is conceptually new.  It gives the car’s eyes an even more menacing, aggressive look – a clue to the model’s performance intent and a subtle differentiator from lesser models.

BMW has also employed red pin striping to denote the sport version of both the new 1 and 3-Series.  Less apparent on the exterior, red pin striping is used inside on the IP, seat stitching and even extends to the key fob on sport models.

More pin stripe examples at the show:

mini John Cooper Works

Opel Rak-e

Mazda Takeri

Have you noticed? Stuff that caught our eye this month...

Maserati and Rolls-Royce both chose to say it with flowers at this year’s Geneva show. What they were saying was ‘premium’.  Clean, calm, pure, warm cream tones present a very high quality image.




Textures and gradients are the less-obvious story of the Peugeot 208 interior – with a door handle finish that graduates from silver to piano- black effect, and speak grilles with fading pixilation to their outer edge.



Pininfarina didn’t just employ any old wood in the Cambiano concept shown in the Palexpo.  Instead, the concept’s door and floor finishes were made from reclaimed timber piles – the ones previously used to hold up the city of Venice, no less!




Volvo’s authentically Swedish-feeling stand was augmented by a projected fire and flint-like stone-wall, creating a cosy lounge-like area.







Car Design Research is the UK providing design research services for design, product planning and marketing groups of car companies and related creative practices.  For more information email  See more of CDR at

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