Car designer Pontus Fontaeus on looking to the future with GAC Entranze Concept
This month’s Detroit Auto Show hosted a clutch of new releases that signposted big change coming down the road. Cadillac debuted its first EV concept, Nissan showed an upmarket all-electric SUV concept, the IMs, that builds on the groundwork laid by its big-selling Leaf electric car, and Chinese brand GAC debuted its Entranze Concept.
This futuristic crossover-MPV was designed at the company’s Californian design studio by a team headed up by former Volvo and Volkswagen designer Pontus Fontaeus. With its flexible interior, four sets of sliding doors and high-sided, faceted design, the Entranze is suitably forward-looking. Inspiration came from aviation design and road trips, with the inside dictating the exterior form. We caught up with the Swedish designer to find out whether the Guangzhou Automobile Company held the keys to future mobility.
Wallpaper*: How does the new concept create a clear space in the market at a time when car design is being transformed by EVs?
Pontus Fontaenus: The GAC Entranze is unique in that the design approach really follows the most recent rendition of what our human needs reflect in an experience travelling from one point to the other. It’s a very human centric design approach that takes a great deal of inspiration from elements that exist outside the traditional automotive segment. The Entranze is very a much a case of form follows user. We really wanted to think differently, and not fall down the more traditional automotive rabbit holes.
W*: What are the key visual elements that will help build this brand?
Pontus Fontaenus: Right now, the Entranze is a concept that looks to redefine what the future of motoring could look like. Our design team really endeavoured to fully embrace the new freedoms that an EV platform allows in terms of layout. It’s also interesting in that the Entranze is the first product from our new North American GAC Design Studio located in Orange County, California. One of our key inspirations was the celebrated tradition of the American road trip. We really set out to design a very special vehicle that offers passengers the ability to enjoy their driving experience with the ones closest to them. There is such a delicious freedom to that. It sounds simple, but the best things usually are. And, simple is often very hard to achieve.
W*: How difficult is it to match the drama of a concept car with a production vehicle?
PF: For the Entranze, some of the key elements present a holistic take on clear inside/out forms and graphics. Our designers did include some halcyon hints of great American car design while drawing strategic inspiration from aerospace and consumer technology. Our inspirations always gravitated towards designs that push boundaries while looking to the future. I will admit with our new design studio being so close to Los Angeles, we weren’t immune to including some small designs cues pulled from our favourite sci-fi Hollywood films. It’s amazing how what we consumed as impossible entertainment decades ago has now become the reality. More realistically, everything that we do at GAC conceptually is within reach of going into production.
W*: Which car designers and brands do you really admire?
PF: I have had the great privilege to meet and work with so many exceptional professionals throughout my extensive career. My inspirations are too many to count. I will say that many designers not only draw inspiration from each other, but also pull inspiration from other great creators in other fields such as chefs, musicians, authors, and filmmakers… On the automotive side, I have had the privilege to work with many great companies such as Ferrari, Land Rover, Volkswagen, Volvo, and now GAC, and I have admired my colleagues almost universally. Together, we are spearheading the future of transportation design. That’s exciting.
W*: How are designers dealing with the changing perception of technologies like autonomous cars?
PF: Autonomous vehicles are a great example of marketplace change. We are on the eve of the auto design game changing. Autonomous will present amazing opportunities from a design purveyor. If a car is fully automated and computerised, it should in theory be almost free of being accident prone. That will change layout significantly. Autonomous vehicles offer the opportunity to dramatically change established designs, and integrate new elements of space, entertainment, and comfort. The Entranze is inspired by these concepts. However, personally I feel the day of being completely autonomous is still yet to come. It is an exciting time to be a designer, and witness how technology is changing our conceptions of what an automobile should be. At GAC, we embraced that for the Entranze.
W*: What is your personal favourite element of this design?
PF: I am extremely pleased that the Entranze is not a product of one or two designers, but rather a completely collaborative effort. The concept has a very harmonious feel to it. Apart from the interesting proportions of the design, there is a seamless flow between the interior and exterior. I particularly enjoy the beautiful wing-shaped front fender that delves into the front windshield and then gracefully materialises again as struts holding up the upper instrument wing. Another design point that we adore are the rocker panels that fold down and double again as a seating area when the car is parked. Designing the Entranze was a real joy. There are subtle layers which are learned the more time one looks at the vehicle. The whole design process was refreshing and liberating, which is what designing a car should be. §