(In pic) Anthony Peat, chief exterior designer, JLR.
(In pic) Anthony Peat, chief exterior designer, JLR.evo India

“We've built up a lot of history, and we are not afraid to reference that. But we're never shackled by it,” said Anthony Peat, Chief Exterior Designer, Jaguar Land Rover

We discussed the challenges of mid-cycle refreshes, maintaining a brand's legacy, and the future of electric Range Rovers in a conversation with Anthony Peat, chief exterior designer, JLR

The Land Rover Velar has received a facelift and has just launched in India. At the launch event, we caught up with  Anthony Peat, chief exterior designer at JLR, who is also responsible for life cycle updates like the one the Velar has just received. In this conversation, he shares his thoughts on the intricacies of automotive design, the balance between tradition and innovation, and the evolving landscape of luxury in the automotive industry. From mid-cycle refreshes to the electrification of Range Rovers, Peat sheds light on the design philosophy that drives Land Rover's vehicles.

As told to Aatish Mishra

Aatish Mishra(AM): A lot of mid-cycle refreshes are designed right at the offset, or are they redesigned through the lifecycle of the car?

Anthony Peat(AP): We do have an idea of what we're going to do with them. We somewhat know what the content will be from a design perspective. There's obviously a lot of other content that goes into it, beneath the skin. A lot of very important updates go into product enhancement. So I look after the elements like the user interfaces and things like single touch. And obviously, we are trying to get the best value for that update, celebrate the vehicle, continue the progression of the brand, and keep the vehicle relevant to the customer. That's matching the customer’s needs.

AM: What would you say are your highlights on the update to the Velar?

AP: It was unique for me to be able to do interior and exterior. Often in the past, we had specialists in exterior and interior. I've done a little bit of both throughout my career. And I think the highlight was the interior for me. Some of the things that we've done on the interior with the new infotainment system, the way we've handled the screen implementation, the centre console, I like that level of sophistication and quality. And as we were developing, it was just getting better and better. And I think it speaks to the brand. It speaks to the designer's sensibilities of cleanliness and that less is more. So that was satisfying.

AM: The Velar was already a good-looking car, and a lot of the updates are building on that already great design. How do you improve something already great?

AP: This is the problem with mid-cycle refreshes. Some people think they are limited, and therefore it is easy, because they're limited, but they're not, they're quite difficult. Because certain things you're going to touch and change. You then have to enhance the product. So yes, the Velar was a very difficult job because it's such a good starting point. But we used the opportunity to align the new Velar with the Range Rover product that is now starting to develop. So with the Range Rover flagship, bringing the Velar to align with that in terms of the front face and appearance, the technology. So very measured steps.

AM: Over the last few years Land Rover has been putting out some great designs, they've been nailing almost every car. What are you doing differently that is allowing you to deliver such a high level on the design front?

AP: When you look at a car like the Range Rover, it feels effortless. It feels simple. But that's not the truth. What we've been doing over the last year is spending a lot of time thinking about what this product should be. Especially with a mid-cycle refresh. And the brand, Range Rover, we are very thoughtful about what we do. It's very much a case of not what you do, but what you leave out. It sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes it's easier to do more, and harder to do less. So that's always the rationale behind the Range Rover brand.

AM: How do you design across segments? You've got the Evoque on one hand, and you've got the big Range Rover on the other end, you've got the Sport, you've got the Velar. You've got to have a unified design language, but at the same time, you want Range Rover customers to feel that they're getting something special. How do you design across that spectrum, and still keep it homogenous?

AP: The key is the brand. The price point is not so much of an issue for us. It's about making sure that we've got the Range Rover offer correct for the particular vehicle segment that we're in. Obviously, money plays a part in a person's choice. But about the choice of a Range Rover. Their money should not limit your ability to feel part of that original experience. So certain things in the Velar and Evoque are consistent through the Range Rover brand. Physically, the design languages are very familiar. Talking about things like the front grille, wheel design, and surfaces are very familiar. They have a family feel. But we include more exceptional materials in the higher price point, in the flagship and probably more sporting materials, more youthful materials, in the Evoque and Velar. They're just different customers, not necessarily different price points. The usage is different as well.

AM: Land Rover has a very rich heritage, you've got the Defender that goes back to your very inception, and you've got Range Rover, which also has a very rich legacy. How do you interpret your legacy and continue it into the modern era?

AP: Legacy is a very important thing. We've built up a lot of history, and we are not afraid to reference that. But we're never shackled by it. Especially with our future-looking brands, we're always trying to take the brand on. Heritage is something we are very proud of, but it's never held us back. The brand sensibilities that created the old products, they're still part of what the new products are. For instance, having high technology in the vehicles, and being at the forefront of vehicle technologies, and driving dynamics, are as true now as it was 50 years ago. So these things are effectively just growing and evolving with the brands.

AM: You spoke about user interfaces. It's evolving very rapidly, touch screens have come in the last 10 years and they're taking over the interiors. What’s your opinion on touchscreens? And do you think we need more of them or less of them?

AP: It depends on the vehicle, the vehicle usage and the brand. Different manufacturers have different sensibilities. For Range Rover, we view everything through a kind of luxury lens. We're constantly trying to work out what luxury is and how we deliver luxury. Is it purely with materials? It's also with technology. So, to give a luxury experience to the customer, how do we best use the technology? It's not necessarily technology for technology's sake, it's how we bring it to enhance and enrich the Range Rover experience for the customer. Luxury is often time. So if we can make something seamless, clean and happen without even having to do anything, that for me is a sense of luxury. Not necessarily a visible expression of technology, but almost a seamless, underlying technology that just makes things happen. 

AM: You mentioned that you are constantly trying to understand luxury, and what that means. How do you do that?

AP: It depends on the market as well. I've always believed that we never stop learning. Part of the designer's role is to keep an open mind and take influences from wherever they come. Because we learn good things and bad things from them. Especially in the global car. We need to understand the markets such as India and take those customer preferences and use them to help develop our products.

AM: How do you develop a global car? Because your cars are not just sold in Britain or India, they are sold everywhere. Everybody has different tastes and different sensibilities. How do you design for everybody?

AP: It is difficult. We do versions occasionally that might be specific to a market, to suit a particular event. But the key to our design team's ability to do global cars is an open mind. We have a very diverse design team, one of the most diverse I've ever worked in. We have representation from pretty much the entire planet, in our design team. So we draw on that. But ultimately, as leaders, and curators of the brand, we take the elements that would suit our brand, and incorporate them within our brand to make that global vehicle. So it's not about being specific for one market. It's about trying to be relevant in every market. But most importantly, to celebrate what Range Rover stands for in those markets.

AM: We're going to get an electric Range Rover next year. How do you design for the electric future? It's going to be a big step, technologically. But at the same time, you're going to want to leverage your legacy in the electric future. How do you find that balance?

AP: I must say that the electrification of vehicles is probably one of the key developments in the automotive industry since we took away the horse from in front of the carriage. It allows a designer to play with the proportions of a vehicle, to fully expand package space. What I would say about the early steps is that we don't want to, at the moment, say that you're driving an electric car or an ICE car. We don't want there to be a distinction between each of those two powertrains. The key thing for us is that Range Rover will always be Range Rover and the means of propulsion is just that. 

AM: Do you think it's more challenging to design a big SUV or more challenging to design a smaller car?

AP: They're both very challenging in different ways. There's a process for both, it is one of interaction with the technical aspects of the vehicle. For a larger car, you're always fighting aerodynamics and weight. In a smaller car, it's more package space. So each one has its individual challenge. I've been lucky enough to have worked on pretty much every part of the automotive spectrum. And I don't think that they're necessarily more challenging.

AM: If you were to pick one car from history that really appeals to you purely in terms of design. What would it be?

AP: I've answered this question a few times in my career and if I had to have one car and I don't own this car, by the way, it would be an Alfa Duetto Spider.

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