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A former vice-president of design at Ford has accused most German brands of losing their “cultural” design language, taking particular aim at Mercedes-Benz.
J Mays, who was group vice-president of global design and chief creative officer at Ford from the late 1990s until retiring in 2013, told Automotive News that the styling used by most German automotive brands was no longer mirroring the mind-set of that country.
“I’m a big stickler for cultural relevance. If you’re going to go to work in Italy, France or Germany, you really want to make sure the brand represents the mind-set of the culture it comes from,” the 62-year-old American told the publication.
“I think the British do a pretty good job — they seem to produce cars that look British. I don’t think the Germans, with the exception of Porsche, are really doing that at the moment,” Mays added.
“I think BMW and Audi are close, but it could be improved. I could not tell you what Mercedes is doing, but it’s not German,” he quipped.
Asked by Automotive News what would make a Mercedes-Benz appear more German, Mays suggested “a quieter design language” and “continuity from one model to the next, not only throughout the line-up, but from generation to generation”.
He did, however, have some praise for Hyundai.
“Roll back the clock before [chief design officer] Peter Schreyer arrived at Hyundai and you would have said the South Koreans will never be able to design a car, but today they’re designing some of the best cars in the world,” he said.
Mays began his career as a designer at Audi, spending a brief spell at BMW before heading back to the Ingolstadt brand and later on to Volkswagen. He then moved to Ford, where he spent some 16 years.
“That’s a very long time for anybody. I’d gotten through about five CEOs, and at some point you just think, ‘okay, I’m not sure I’ve got a lot more to add here’.
“I went through the same thing at Audi when I left in 1994. I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I know what the next two to three generations of Audis are going to look like, and I’m not sure this is going to be that interesting’,” he said.