In September 2021, Geely Auto Group, which owns big car brands including Lotus, Polestar and Volvo who are all moving towards an electric future, appointed Stefan Sielaff as its new design chief, based in Gothenburg, Sweden.
He brings over 30 years of car design experience from brands like Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Bentley. Stefan now oversees design for brands under Geely Auto Group, including Geely Auto, Geometry, Lynk & Co and Zeekr.
Sielaff talks about Geely’s electric future and particularly what’s happening with Zeekr, Geely’s premium brand for battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs).
How is life at Geely and how different is life compared to where you were before?
I’ve been settling in just fine in the new environment and this new city. It has only been about six months but we’ve achieved so much and there is still a lot more to look forward to.
From the size to the high demand of working for a large group with multiple brands, I don’t think there is much difference between Geely and the rest.
The most notable difference is the speed in which decisions are made, as well as the creative freedom. Our designs don’t have to be analysed for too long, as everything is decided quickly which also shortens the entire process. For a designer, this is highly fascinating and satisfying.
Secondly, is the incredible openness to having multicultural teams. Personally, I have not seen so many nationalities and such a young team for a long time.
Breaking the traditional norms gives these young people from various backgrounds a chance to work in a pluralistic environment to help deliver some of the best designs in the world. This is literally something I’ve not experienced before, at least not on this scale and dimension.
What can we expect from Geely Design in the coming five years?
Our aim at Geely Design is to push the design and brand direction for Geely Auto Group as a whole, along with each subsidiary brand, towards a new direction to make it number one in terms of design, with a new set of design language that is unique for each brand.
We are already looking ahead to the next step in our design development, where Geely’s genetic code will have to further evolve into an entirely new dimension.
In five years, most of our products will be electric with almost similar technical specifications, so design will have to be the key differentiator.
I am excited to see changes to the overall architectural layout of the car, perhaps with more emphasis on the interior which will function as a lifestyle capsule or digital hub.
The collaboration between Zeekr and Waymo has already provided us with the first glimpse of this new design architecture.
What can we expect from Zeekr?
At present, the design language for Zeekr’s first few models is still borrowed from Lynk & Co but will eventually evolve into something that is uniquely Zeekr.
The Zeekr design team, here in Sweden, is currently busy developing a luxury design language for the brand, reserved for one of the highest segments of the market.
Global consumers, especially in the Chinese market, have a modern attitude towards luxury, without the traditional decadence and opulence, and instead expressed in a clear and clean design language.
This new interpretation of high-end allows Zeekr to make an absolutely brash yet confident statement that merits its own strength and unique voice. We work with lots of new technologies to always keep this design language new and fresh.
What are some of the newer car design trends that you’re excited about?
I think there are currently two megatrends in the car design field, a sort of yin and yang, that is related to electric vehicles. One direction is extremely science-fiction, with a loud and robust design language that is almost robotic. On the other end, you have an extremely clean and reduced design trend, especially in the higher segments, where customers prefer to be socially hygienic.
To me, these latter, simple designs are more precious and always the most difficult to accomplish. Out of my 35-year experience in car design, I have learned this to be a design rule – it is easy to overload and complicate something by just throwing everything you have into it, but to make a simple statement, you’ll need to make a lot of hard decisions and know what must be removed and put away.