Design Challenge: Changing Luxury


The fluctuations in the global economy and a shift in the social conscience of those in the upper echelons of wealth are causing some concern in the design offices of luxury vehicle brands like Cadillac and BMW. Both companies are now studying the potential long-term impact of today’s economic crisis on the future of luxury cars and trucks. Additionally, the growth of high-end eco-resorts could be changing the buying behavior of luxury vehicle buyers.
“There was a point in the past year when we thought the luxury market was somehow not affected by what was happening in the economic realm—we now know otherwise. We’re in the process right now of trying to crack the code on what all of these things are going to mean to the luxury market going forward,” says Clay Dean, design director for Cadillac. Similarly, Adrian van Hooydonk, head of the BMW brand’s design office, admits the German luxury marque is trying to wrestle with what today’s shifts mean for tomorrow’s luxury buyers. He contends that “luxury” will no longer mean “big and opulent,” but “small and individual.” BMW is working on a small crossover concept that’s going to project a more environmentally-responsible, less in-your-face image for BMW.
“We’re still too close to the [economic] disaster to know exactly what’s going to happen, but we are already seeing new home starts coming in several hundred square feet below where they used to be and the days of everyone wanting a $75,000 Escalade are going to change. We need to make sure we provide the right message about arrival and success,” says Dean.