Donal Reddington on mass customization, crowdsourcing and digital manufacturing

Two extremes of car personalization

Two articles have recently been published that provide an interesting comparison between current car manufacturer’s approach to personalization, and the prsonalization ideas put forward by up-and-coming auto design students.

In the manufacturer’s corner is Skoda (part of the Volkswagen Group), which was reported in UK magazine Auto Express as planning to offer a service to add personalized photos to the roof of the upcoming Skoda Fabia hatchback.  If the publication date on this article was April 1, I would have said it was an April Fool prank.  But it seems to be for real.  Auto Express quotes a spokesman for the company:

“It should be possible to take a photograph of, say, your new-born baby to the dealer and have it put on the roof,” said a spokesman for the firm. “While it’s still early days, we’re definitely looking into this feature.”

At the other extreme, Gizmag reports on how Graduates from the Automotive Design MA  course at England’s Coventry University aim is to create ‘the customizable youth car of 2020′ – a vehicle that can be easily customised to reflect the individualism of its owner, or the style and values of a group.

Rather than focusing on superficial visual items, the designers are looking at how a car can be adapted to fit the concept of ‘separatism’.  This idea comes from the Japanese notion of ‘Harajuku’ gangs, where trendy teenagers create their own fashion and deliberately try to stand out from their peers.

The three designers of the future are Kazanori Inomota, Edward Stubbs, and Mujammil Khan-Muztar.  Mujammil suggests that future car buyers will look for choices like the ‘music-studio option’ or a ‘gaming experience option’, which represents what’s important in their life.  Ideas such as these explore the ‘liveability’ of the car, where people bring their lifestyle with them when they leave their home.

The work of these students is reflective to some extent of the research being carried out at MIT, which seeks to take a fresh view as to the role of the car.  The difference is that the MIT research is focusing primarily on how the car integrates with the built environment in which it operates, and the Coventry group focuses on how it integrates with its owner.

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