The new design studio in Brazil

"What we create here is something that we hope people will treasure. It changes lives."

FCA opens a new design studio in Brazil for the Fiat, Jeep and RAM brands

August 19, 2019 - “Design is everything. And everything is design. ”That's how Peter Fassbender, FCA Design Director for Latin America, sees the world. After all, “creating is basically shaping. It means being able to shape something new”, as defined by the Polish artist, art theorist and teacher Fayga Ostrower, who lived much of her life in Brazil and represents well the process of transforming inspiration into something tangible. She believes that people imagine and create solutions stimulated by the challenge of meeting their needs. This is so with all artistic and creative manifestations as well as with car design.

Staying firm regarding the challenge of always innovating, FCA inaugurates the group’s new facilities, the Design Center in Latin America. Located in Betim’s the Automotive Plant (MG, Brazil). The R$ 11.4 million investment is considered the largest automotive design studio in the continent. Within the team, there are about 150 creative minds working together to shape new products.

“We were born as the Fiat Style Center of Brazil in 2002,” says Peter. In these almost two decades of activities, more than 15 new models and eight concept cars were developed for the Brazilian and Latin American markets. “It's been here for 17 years in an area that now is multi-branding and faces the challenge of also experimenting with new ideas, shapes and materials for the Jeep and RAM brands in Latin America”, says Peter. “We have been looking for a home for our designs for many years, to truly provide a home for our future activities and bring all our professionals together to create new products”, he adds.

Design Priciples logo and man

With an area of ​​2,700 square meters divided into two floors, the entire structure of the new Design Center was built to holistically favor the creation of products. “It's about putting the most creative people in a room and letting them dream”, says FCA World Vice President of Design Ralph Gilles, who visited Brazil especially to see the new space. He believes that the magic of the studio lies in the collaboration, because of its multidisciplinary approach, and spares no praise to the Latin American team: “I am really very impressed with the Design team here and the work they do. They have the best tools at hand now and the freedom to create and I can already see amazing results. ” Latam Design Center maintains an intense exchange routine with its peers in North America, Europe and Asia. All FCA products are collaboratively developed by global teams. “These are Brazilian professionals who participate in immersion sessions at the FCA studios abroad and vice versa. These are interactions that allow the diversity of points of view to inspire new ideas”, says Rafael Peixoto, leader of Interior Design.

One of the biggest assets of the new space is the User Experience (UX) lab, the first in the automotive sector in Brazil and whose mission is to create vehicles that are increasingly aligned with what really matters: people's desire and experience. The area has simulators specially developed to test the usability of interface and connectivity solutions, as well as insights into the internal and external design of vehicles. “The Design Center has this role of looking ahead and understanding people's expectations so that it can deliver what they expect, not only today but in the future as well”, explains UX area leader Leandro Alvarenga. “What we want people to feel when they get into a car designed by us is: ‘this car is mine, it was made for me, I was the center of attention for this design’,” adds Luís Dias, from the Interior Design team.

Design Studio, test drive

Developed by FCA in partnership with an innovation company from the Campinas Technology Center, the simulator creates an environment that seeks to realistically represent varied driving conditions. The daily traffic interactions are reproduced, such as cars overtaking and pedestrians, all synchronized to vehicle signals such as acceleration and braking using Artificial Intelligence. The modular platform allows for quick replacement of components from either Fiat, Jeep or RAM. “We stand behind the mirrored room, assessing people's reaction to certain inputs. Feedback from what works and gaps in user experience occur in real time”, says Alvarenga. A Virtual Reality simulator, useful for experimenting on internal and external final touches, such as colors and textures, is also part of the UX Lab. The tool is widely used in the early design phase, for testing, before building the physical models. In a universe of possibilities of lines, colors, shapes and surfaces, the feature allows creativity to happen in multiple combinations.

The new Design Center also has the Virtual Room which features a special laser projector, the result of an investment of over R$ 1 million. The new equipment is capable of designing the vehicle in its actual size with specific high resolution details, which allows for very accurate assessments. And, because design is constantly evolving, FCA already foresees more investments in the area for the coming years in Latin America. According to Peter Fassbender, a new wave of investment is expected in the coming years for the construction of a second building, next to the current one, to house machining equipment, 3D printer, and other spaces. "What we create here is something that we hope people will treasure. It changes lives", concludes Gilles.

Design Center in Brazil, designer working

Words: Bárbara Caldeira

Pictures: Marketing

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