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An SUV, a flying car, and running out of 'V' words. Aston Martin's executive vice president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman talks to us | Q&A


Think of any Aston Martin from the past decade and Marek Reichman designed it, but did you know he's also done a boat, a submarine and an apartment block for the brand? We caught up with the Aston Martin executive vice president and chief creative officer to ask him why...


RB: You started with Aston Martin in 2005 and have designed pretty much everything since – the DB9, Vanquish, the One-77, the DB10 Bond car, DB11, Vantage, Vulcan, Valkyrie…  Do you have a favourite?

MR: Yes, but it's a favourite because it was a precursor to many things – it's the One-77. It was important because at the time it was the world's most expensive car. It was the first time that a modern Aston Martin had gone over a million pounds. And it was very extreme in its design language - much harder-edged, a bigger face and hinting at what I believe was right for the future. And if you look at DB11 you can see the character similarities between the two. So, it was important in the context of setting the scene of where we are today.


RB: So not the Cygnet, then?

MR: Definitely not the Cygnet. Design is about improvement and making a difference, and I have no doubt that the Cygnet is better than a [Toyota] iQ. So, I did my job. Was it right for Aston Martin's portfolio? Absolutely not, but that was a point in time.

 

DB11 is one of those cars whose proportion and language in the flesh is much better than in photos or film.


RB: There's been division over the DB11's face? Why do you think that is?

MR: I think change is always difficult. The DB11 was derived out of One-77 which was quite radical. It was a big change and it needed to be a change because prior to that we were making Russian dolls. And as soon as you stop making Russian dolls and do something different your fan base will say 'wow'.  DB11 is one of those cars whose proportion and language in the flesh is much better than in photos or film. It pushed the barrier in terms of the visual language of an Aston Martin.


RB: Talking of visual language, did you ever get around to sending a copyright infringement notice to Ford for its grille design?

MR: [Laughs] We did have that conversation with Ford and we're all happy. We all live together, and you know sometimes you have to look at something and say that in many ways it's flattery.


RB: What do they say: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

MR: Absolutely.


RB: Aston Martin showed us its DBX SUV concept in 2015 at Geneva. Word is that it'll be out by 2020. Is that all still on track?

MR: It is all on track. You'll start to see more of it towards the middle of next year as prototypes come out of the factory. The St Athan facility will specifically build the DBX and the two Lagondas that come after that. Towards the end of this year we'll start building prototypes and they'll be what you call the X1 prototypes of DBX – they're the running mules that will test the four-wheel drive and electronic systems. They'll be hard to disguise because it's the first time we've created an SUV. So it's all on track, it's car No.4 in our Second Century Plan and it'll be out by the end of 2019 for the 2020 model year.


RB: You've done SUVs before - the last generation Range Rover was your baby. Why did you decide to design an SUV that wasn't blocky and tall?

MR: First of all, it's going to be beautiful – because our mantra is always about beauty. Now a Range Rover has an elegance to it, but at Aston Martin translating sports car into sports utility was the goal but with beauty in mind.

So, it has all of the cues and all the things you'd imagine an Aston Martin to have in terms of scale and proportion, the dynamic language of the body and the grille. That's why it can't be a very square model because that's not us but it will have its own unique identity. So, no it won't be blocky and yes, it's going to be beautiful.


RB: What about the name of this SUV? I see Aston Martin has trademarked 'Varekai'. Can you shed any light on that?

MR: No, we just protect lots and lots of names that start with V, because V is very much a part of our make-up, but no decision yet as to DBX. Internally, it's still DBX, but watch this space – it's a great name.


RB: Are you worried you're going to run out of words starting with V?

MR: [laughs] Yes I am, but you'd be surprised because the more you dig and the more you look around there's always another one that crops up.

 

Creativity spawns creativity. If you live in a bubble you create as though you live in a bubble.


RB: The Q collection – it's Aston Martin's bespoke division. What's the most outrageous request you've had?

MR: [laughs] Colour-wise there have been some quite unbelievable combinations. But the most extreme? Well, we had a customer who wanted the wings of an Aston Martin badge to be scarab beetle wings. I found a shop in Paris which sold preserved scarab beetles and I bought 15 of them and then inlaid their wings into the badge.


RB: You're not just designing cars. There's the 37-foot Aston Martin AM37 powerboat which you entered into the 2016 Monaco yacht show, a 66-storey Aston Martin building is planned for Miami, and last year you designed an Aston Martin submarine. Are you bored, Marek?

MR: [laughs] The simple answer to that is creativity spawns creativity. If you live in a bubble you create as though you live in a bubble. If you live in a world where you're willing to collaborate, explore and find different avenues as a creative output then it will inspire a designer even more.

If you don't have inspiration going in you don't get something out. Creating the boat, the submersible, the apartments – it's making the creative process thrive more because its adding fuel to that fire.

Just as one example, with the submersible you get real problems with solar loading, because under the water it can be -40 degrees and when you reach at the top it can be +40 degrees. We've been working on coatings for the glass to prevent the solar loading being a problem inside – apply that to a car and you can eliminate sun visors, it means you can have a reactor light screen.

So, it's not just about being bored, but about finding solutions I never knew existed until I stepped outside the automotive sector.


RB: What else is there to design? Elon Musk is pioneering space travel, Audi has lunar rovers. Could Aston Martin join the space industry?

MR: I can't see why not. A lot of collaborations depend on the right partner – Triton Submarines was the right partner for the submersible, and G&G for the Miami residences.

The world has changed so much now that collaboration and cross fertilisation are important for anyone to exist. So, would I imagine space travel, would I imagine drones, would I imagine something else? I absolutely can – provided we have the right partner there.


RB: Flying cars?

MR: You never know. What is it: never say never again?

What would you like to see Aston Martin design next? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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