Henrik Fisker has been with Ford Motor Company since 2001, where he serves as Design Director for Aston Martin, and the Director of California Advanced Product Creation (a Ford division). His creations are loved and admired by many, as he has an extremely talented eye for design. We caught up with him and asked him for his thoughts on the Detroit Auto Show and automotive design.
Roadfly: What was your impression of this year’s Detroit Auto Show?
Henrik Fisker: I think it was one of the best auto shows I’ve ever seen. In general, there was a lot of product, a lot of fantastic cars, and a great mix between production cars and exciting concept cars. I also got a feeling of a general optimism at the show, specifically with the American car companies, specifically Ford, GM and DaimlerChrylser (even though DaimlerChrylser is now technically only ‘half-American’). There was a definite sense of optimism and enthusiasm.
R: Was there anything at the show that really caught your eye?
HF: Yes – I think the Mustang really caught my eye. The fact that you can get a 300-horsepower V8 Mustang for less than $20,000 really says the American car company is back and they’re doing what they do best – delivering excitement the money.
R: Were there any trends that you detected at the show? Anything that might hint of things to come?
HF: I definitely think there’s a trend of bringing beauty back into cars. I also think there was a second trend that hinted at a return of ‘back to basics,’ and I think you saw this with the Mustang, the Cobra concept, the Pontiac Solstice and the Dodge SlingShot — cars that had emotional designs yet were meant to deliver a pure fun sense of attitiude. I think the back-to-basics approach may be a function of us almost exhausting how much new technology we can pack into a car and still make it practical and usable for most consumers.
R: Let’s talk about design. When drawing up the DB9, were you bound to any constraints by corporate, or did you have free reign?
HF: Well, I think that if you don’t have any constraints, then you’re an artist rather than a designer. But, obviously, the idea behind Aston Martin is to build the perfect driver’s car, so there’s always that constraint. I’d say that of all the cars I’ve worked on, this is the one that’s had the least constraints from corporate.
R: As a designer, how closely do you watch what other designers are doing? Is there a sense of competition, or are things more “to each his own?”
HF: I think you need to always be aware of your competition, which allows you to do something different (when you’re aware of what others are doing), however, you will notice that some of the same ideas just happen to come at the same time. It’s a natural thing, but it can appear as though we’re playing off one another’s work. Generally I try to keep up with everyone with the intention of doing something different, as evidenced by the rear-end of the Aston Martin DB9. It doesn’t follow the current trend of automotive rear-end fashions.
R: What’s the most satisfying part of your job? Is it the work, the rewards, the finished product or something entirely different?
HF: I think it has to be the work. There’s nothing more exciting for me than to work on a car’s sculpture. When you see your design materialize into a sculpture and then a machine, that’s really rewarding. I think the ultimate reward is after it becomes a production car and you see one driving down the road. To know that someone liked your work enough to lay down all that money on a car that you worked so hard to create, is inexplicably gratifying. It’s beyond any dream.
R: Where do you go from here? What’s next?
HF: Well, the next project is always the next big challenge. As a designer, I’m always trying to refine and design things. If it weren’t for the engineers saying, ‘Ok, let’s build this,” I’d probably be in a perpetual state of design. Moving to the next design is great because you can take the ideas that you had in the middle of the past project and start to develop them further. Aston Martin’s next project is the launch of the AMV8, which we’re excited about. Ford’s next project for me is working on next year’s show cars for the Detroit Show.
R: We’ll wrap this up with a last question. From where do you draw inspiration for a design? Is it possible to just sit down with a blank piece of paper and sketch out a car?
HF: Candidly, my ideas just come from my head. I sit down and start to sketch, and that’s where I get them from. I might not sketch the entire car, but maybe a portion and from there I expand it. Lately I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration by looking back at what made the human fall in love with cars. Buying a car is such an irrational and emotional behavior, that I have to figure out what it is that they love. Really, who needs a car that costs more than say $15,000? I’m trying to capture the sense of the emotion and love affair that people have with cars.
Henrik has certainly managed to capture our hearts with his brilliantly stunning designs, and we can hardly wait to see his next creations. Many thanks to Henrik Fisker and his staff for taking the time to sit down and talk with us about his exciting works.