Creating the Holden VF Commodore cabin almost from the ground up, Holden design manager John Field set his team a clear brief, with three main objectives for the task ahead.
“We wanted to make the interior much more rich in its materials and execution,” Field said. “We wanted to integrate in a really seamless way some cool new technology.
“And finally we really wanted to improve the way the customer interfaces with the vehicle, both in terms of things like quality perception, but also ergonomics and ease of use of the interior.”
Proposals were put forward to Field by Holden designers, with a trio of strikingly similar variations the finalists – one with a more upright Cruze-like centre stack, another with a horizontal stack but with a thicker decorative strip accent and swoopier door trim, and the selected theme for production, penned by Joe Rudolph (below) who became VF interior design manager.
“We started that [selection] process towards the end of 2009, and by the end of that year we narrowed it down to three themes we wanted to take forward…” recalls the design boss.
“So in about April 2010 we did select the single theme … the reason we selected [Rudoph’s] one was for a couple of reasons: first of all [it had] the visual appeal that we were really looking for. But secondly, he really thought quite deeply about how to get lots of quality improvements into the design without actually compromising the aesthetic.
“So he thought about how he could resolve a lot of potential issues in a seamless way without affecting the look of the car.”
Holden took the chosen design theme to a customer clinic in 2010, and, says Sharon Gauchi, chief designer of colour and trim: “We were really happy with the results.”
After the design is locked in, the Holden team moved to the development phase, Gauchi explaining that “it started in the CAD world, and predominantly stayed in the CAD world” between April 2010 until late in 2011.
In the Holden virtual-reality studio, the projector screen takes up the entire length of the wall, and using software called Showcase, designers “can zoom in and out, look at details, look at interfaces and even simulate materials and finishes in real time,” says Joe Rudolph.
There are four clocks on the wall, showing the time in Seoul, Russelsheim, Shanghai, Detroit … and of course Melbourne – the locations of General Motors design studios from around the world.
From late 2011, the clay modelling and mock-ups of the actual interior begun. From there, Gauchi (below) described the “to and fro process” between “touchy-feely” clay and the CAD world.
Pointing to the full-size clay cut-outs of actual VF Commodore interiors on the floor of the design studio, the colour and trim designer explained that “we use these bucks from a process point of view like fashion designers use a mannikin…
“It’s the first time we see our designs off-screen, and what’s in our head, and what we’re sampling from our suppliers as a 3D form for the very first time.
“So it’s all a mock up … we get to swap things in and out and really confirm that we’ve got it right.”
Playing with materials between variants, liaising with suppliers, and approving a manufacturing state put the VF Commodore on its final stretch towards early 2013 production.
“We really wanted to create an environment that was much more luxurious, that had a higher sense of sophistication than where we’ve been before,” adds Gauchi.
“All our interiors have grown up.”