Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has opened a new design studio in Brazil. Located in Betim, Minas Gerais, the new LATAM region design studio is now the largest automotive design studio in Latin America and is now a hub for design for the FIAT, Jeep®, and RAM brands for the region.
“We were born as Fiat Style Center of Brazil in 2002. We have 17 years of experience in an area which now becomes multibrand and faces the challenge of also try new ideas, shapes, and materials for the brands Jeep and RAM for Latin America”, says the director of the Latam Design Center, Peter Fassbender. “The new Design Center is proof of the evolution and accreditation of our history. We are ready for the new challenges”, he adds.
The new 2,700 square meters (or 29,000 square foot) design studio is divided into two floors and comes into the fold thanks to an investment of R$ 11.4 million ($2.75 million USD).
Besides the wide and integrated space, the new Design Center brings technology as its biggest changing factor. The new User Experience (UX) laboratory is equipped with simulators specially developed to test the usability of interfaces and connectivity solutions, as well as perceptions of the internal and external design of vehicles. “FCA is the first company in the automotive sector to invest in the creation of a laboratory of UX in the country. With these tools, we guarantee that the view of user experience is within the development process. The challenge is to deeply understand the client in interactions with the car, within a perspective of usability and security,” explains the leader in the UX area, Leandro Alvarenga. In the laboratory, designers, and researchers work together, making the design cycle more efficient and responsive.
Developed by FCA in partnership with a company of innovation of the Technological Pole of Campinas, the simulator creates an environment that seeks to realistic represent diversified conditions of driving. The interaction with traffic, as overtaking cars and the presence of pedestrians, is synchronized to the vehicle signs, such as acceleration and braking, by means of Artificial Intelligence. Everything is tailor-made so the usability testing of the instrument panels and the infotainment systems may occur as close as possible to the real environment. “We stay behind the mirror, evaluating people’s reactions to certain inputs. The feedback on what works and what are the gaps in user experience occurs in real-time,” says Leandro Alvarenga. The platform is modular, allowing the quick exchange of the components, either by Fiat, Jeep, and RAM.
Another tool of the “UX Lab” is the simulator of virtual reality, in order to assess the internal and external finishes, such as colors and textures. The tool is widely used in the initial phase of the project, prior to the construction of the physical models.
Besides the UX Lab, the new LATAM Design Center, there is a Virtual Room, using a laser projector and other advanced technology, which is the result of an investment of more than R$ 1 million (or about $241,000 USD). With the new equipment, the vehicle is designed in excellent resolution, actual size and specific details of texture. This feature provides ratings closer to reality and more aligned with what you would find as a finished product in a showroom.
Integrated into the Virtual Room and the UX Lab, the Showroom is the space where the presentations of the various phases of projects in development, until the final approval. The diffuse lighting emphasizes the shape and colors of the models. Also located on the ground floor, the Integrated features 674 square meters (or 7,254 square feet), divided into two environments. The areas are intended for the construction of models in clay, with the integration of the Design and Engineering teams, who actively participate in the development of a model.
On the second floor, are work areas. The architecture of the space is open to promote creativity and join the various teams. “On the second floor, we project and design cars. Downstairs we execute prototypes, test and validate the results”, explains Daniel Gerzson, leader of Exterior Design. The second floor has a connection with the Integrated, by means of a glass mezzanine, allowing the designers to maintain visual contact with the permanent model that is under development.
According to Peter Fassbender, a new wave of investment is planned for years to come for the construction of a second building, beside the current, to house the machining equipment, 3D printer, in addition to other space.
For Ralph Gilles, Vice-President of FCA Global Design, who was recently in Brazil to visit the new space, the Latin America team has in their hands the best tools to create. “When you put so many talented people together in a single space, amazing things happen”, he said. Still, according to Gilles, designers are the guardians of brands: “We are constantly looking for new ideas, and the magic is in the people who are hired to do this. It is about putting the most creative people in a space and let them dream,” he said.
The new LATAM Design Studio was opened up to the press for two days recently, to show off to the public what kind of technology to new studio would be showcasing to design future products. The design studio will continue to focus on global FIAT, Alfa Romeo, and Jeep design, as well as the RAM products that are more focused on the Latin American markets, like the Ram 700, Ram 1000, and the upcoming Ram Metric-Truck.