2008-03-21 / Neighbors

Volvo

the Camarillo connection
By Daniel Wolowicz camarillo@theacorn.com

JANN HENDRY/Acorn Newspaper
FROM PAPER TO PAVEMENT- Jan Hedegaard-Broch, vice president and general manager of Volvo's Monitoring and Concept Center in Camarillo, stands beside the model of a prototype car for the Swedish carmaker. Hedegaard-Broch, who lives in Westlake Village, heads the Camarillo studio responsible for designing nearly a dozen of Volvo cars currently on the road.
Geza Loczi is an artist who would much rather see his artwork on display in his neighbor's garage than in a trendy downtown art gallery.

The Moorpark resident has made a career for himself helping to create one of the auto industry's most distinct car lines with a reputation for safety.

Since 1986, Loczi has been a mainstay of the 17-member design team at the Camarillobased Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center as the studio's director of design.

Housed in a nondescript building tucked inside Camarillo's industrial district, the international team of designers has created for the Swedish carmaker nearly a dozen automobiles currently on the road.

Geza Loczi
Although Volvo has similar design studios in Barcelona and headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, the Camarillo studio has been the main location for the company's creative process.

"Most of the designs, historically, have come out of this building, but that's more by skill than plan," said Jan Hedegaard-Broch, who heads the design studio.

Hedegaard-Broch, a native of Sweden now living in Westlake Village, said there's considerable competition among the three design studios, with bragging rights being the chief motivating factor.

The state-of-the-art studio has been the birthplace of Volvo's future with the creation of three concept cars, including the Volvo ReCharge, a plug-in hybrid coupe with a flexi-fuel engine. The hybrid debuted at last year's Los Angeles International Auto Show.

Hedegaard-Broch takes pride in the car's design not only because of its low emissions engine, but because of its safety features.

Based mainly on the Volvo C30- a two-door hatchback that was recently named a 2008 AllStar by Automobile magazine- the ReCharge incorporates many of the design elements from Volvo's Safety Concept Car, another design to come from the Camarillo studio.

The Safety Concept Car design won Concept Car of the Year in 2002.

Most recently, Volvo unveiled its highly anticipated XC60 at the Geneva Motor Show in February. The lowslung sports utility vehicle- known as a crossover- is expected to go into production next year. The vehicle comes standard with an automatic braking system that senses the car ahead and will slow and stop the Volvo if the driver doesn't respond quickly enough.

Under Ford

Both Loczi and Hedegaard-Broch said the design department retained considerable autonomy since Ford Motor Company's buyout of the Swedish carmaker in 1999.

"It's very free, we don't see any limitations," Hedegaard-Broch said.

He said decisions on Volvo designs are made in Gothenburg and approved by Ford, which also owns Lincoln, Mercury, Mazda, Jaguar and Land Rover.

Times have been tough for Ford in the past two years as the U.S. automaker reported $15 billion in losses and cut nearly 32,000 jobs.

President and CEO Alan Mulally announced last year a realignment plan intended to boost Ford's profitability by requiring its stable of automakers to participate in a companywide platformsharing plan.

The companies will share basic car components.

Platform sharing has been a successful approach for Volvo in the past few years.

The Mazda3 and Volvo's second generation of the S40- both SUVs based on similar platforms- have garnered praise for their distinctive designs.

Hedegaard-Broch, who has been with Volvo for nearly four decades, said technology sharing among Ford-owned companies makes for good business. But he said it's slowed the development process because it takes more people to reach a consensus on final design.

Not long ago Ford considered selling Volvo to BMW, but announced in November its intention to keep the Swedish car company.

From paper to pavement

Loczi said he began working with Volvo as a consultant in 1983. He soon joined the company's design department and in 1994 created the Volvo S60, one of the company's signature sedans. The S60 first rolled off the assembly line in 1999.

It typically takes from three to five years for a car design to make its way from paper to pavement, according to Volvo spokesmen. During that time, Loczi said, a designer will guide the the creation process through a broad network of engineers and other experts in an attempt to bring their creation to life.

"If you don't, somebody else will take ownership, and the whole emotion of the car disappears," said Loczi, who lived in both London and Sweden to help shepherd the S60 from design to production.

"At that same time, we were developing the wagon version, the V70, and the cross-country version, the XC70," Loczi said.

"These three cars were designed at the same time in the same studio because of commonality, but also because we wanted them to appear as individual as possible," he said.

When asked what it's like to see a car he's designed being driven around town, Loczi said, "It always feels good to see your art form on the road, and that people are driving your car because they really like the way it looks."

 

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