November 18th, 2018 by Nicolas Zart
I recently met with the Byton design team in Munich, Germany, for CleanTechnica and spent a few hours talking to the company’s head designer, Benoit Jacob, who also penned the stunning BMW i8 and i3. Find out via the interview summary below how the company sees the future of our green mobility and what its design language means for the industry.
Getting Back to Fundamentals
I first met Benoit Jacob at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2012. After years of BMW teasing us with its BMW Vision EfficientDynamics, then-designer Benoit Jacob stood in front of its creation smiling, or was he smirking?
The original concept was sensational. And there was something about Benoit I instantly liked. Benoit was straightforward and unapologetic about the design of both cars. After spending a brief 15 minutes with him, I understood why those cars are so unique. He wanted them to still work 50 years down the road with no electric/electronic aerodynamical gimmicks and spoilers.
Fast forward six years later. Our 2018 Pebble Beach coverage of the official unveiling of the Byton M-Byte for North America reminded me why both the M-Byte and the stunning K-Byte caught my attention. My first thoughts seeing the K-Byte were: “Finally, a car with human dimensions I can wrap my head around.” If I were to buy a modern car, the K-Byte would be first on my list.
I forgot Benoit designed both with the help of a bright and highly creative team, which I later met in Munich, Germany. A lot of thought and long-term planning went into the design of these initial Byton models.
In yet another frank talk with Benoit, I discovered that his candid communication style gets right to the point, to my great pleasure. The problem with modern cars is that they have too much attitude and are desperately trying to be cute and sexy. The results are cars that try to look tough with attitude and cute at the same time. I don’t know about you but it leaves me feeling no one has a clear idea who their audience is.
I like the design of the K-Byte because it’s a solid sedan that doesn’t try to be more than it is, and that is refreshing in this world of hyperboles. I feel the same about the M-Byte. It’s a small SUV that looks like one. More often than not, modern car design feels desperate and trying to please everyone at the same time, and no one in the end.
Subtle & Silent Luxury
If you’ve ever anticipated talking to someone influential and interesting, you’ll know how I felt before interviewing Benoit. I wanted to know what his thinking was around the K-Byte and M-Byte design.
Both K-Byte and M-Byte stand out by not overdoing it. You won’t find the word “luxury” slapped on either vehicle, yet they feel luxurious. And none of that lean and mean machine oxymoron here. The lines are harmonious without being aggressive. Benoit Jacob and his team are shaping Byton’s own design signature, a sort of new DNA for the startup, with subtlety.
The K-Byte wins me over with a more human-sized look and feel. Benoit told me he wanted to give the sedan segment a second chance, countering the trend of having SUVs and pickup trucks take center stage at auto shows. The K-Byte lines are harmoniously stretched into a coherent whole only broken with modern driving devices, lidar sensors and GPS, sticking out from its silhouette. That long bar on the top of the car breaks up and highlights the overall lines. It won’t let your eyes rest too long or anticipate anything. Functional with a purpose, the lidar sensors sticking out from the side of the car give it a Star Trek-ish feel. As a Star Trek fan, I particularly like the break of harmonious lines via this modern-day driving equipment.
Overall, the K-Byte has the dimensions of a normal sized sedan, which reminds me of the more subtle 1960s and 1970s designs.
Next in this series, we’ll look at the design team with Williane Oliveira and how the team goes about creating a new DNA for Byton. Come to think of it, that’s one job I wish I had known about in college.
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