California Autos Examiner

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Interview With Frank Saucedo

I had an opportunity to speak with Frank Saucedo, Director of Advanced Design at General Motors in Los Angeles. Mr. Saucedo oversees a staff of 30 designers, sculptors, analysts and engineers. He joined GM in 1984 as a designer with the company's European subsidiary Adam Opel AG. He returned to the States and served in the capacity of Assistant and eventually Chief of Design in the company's Advanced Concepts Center. After a brief tenure at the helm of Volkswagen's Simi Valley, California design center, he returned to GM in 2002 to lead the Los Angeles based team. Since opening, the studio has spearheaded the development of several noteworthy projects, including the Chevrolet Borrego, Chevrolet SS concept and Pontiac Solstice.

Interviewing someone from an advance design studio can be a tricky thing. For example, they can’t really give you any specifics on what they are working on. It's kind of "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you" situation.

However, I can give you a few details on future trends as interpreted by Advanced Design:

Reshaping materials: You could have a spoiler that instead of using a mechanical motor to lift at speed would simply have an electrical charge run through it to cause it to change shape.

Interiors with greater interior flexibility: Something like Chrysler's stow-n-go and swivel-n-go are just the start. Having the ability to reshape the interior to your current needs.

Materials that “change your life” as part of the human machine interface (HMI): If I could distill that concept, I would say it’s about how you feel about getting into your vehicle and the way things work. This concept sounds a bit more “catch phrase” than the other items. Off the cuff, I think this more or less “surprise and delight” with a spin.

What’s next for Saucedo's team? Well there will be a concept from the studio next year, at an auto show that has yet to be determined. The studio is also doing some work on Asia/Pacific small cars and a production model debuting in 2012.

In my opinion, probably one of the more exciting aspects of the studio are the internal concepts. These “for GM’s eyes only vehicles” are some of the bigger risk takers because they are emerging ideas rather than polished and sometimes compromised concepts. Internal vehicles are really the pure essence of a designer’s idea, without as much fiddly meddling and sanitizing. The group will be showing some internal Cadillac concepts that if green lighted could become production vehicles sometime in the next decade.

As for this interview: I was not originally scheduled to speak with Mr. Saucedo and therefore didn't get a chance to do any prior research on his work. I do appreciate the fifteen minute time slot that I was given.

GM wants you to know that they paid my way for this trip.

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