Ian Callum interviewed at the opening of the National Transport Design Centre 2017 | CAR Magazine

‘I think there will still be a place for V8s’ – Jaguar design director Ian Callum's optimism for the future of cars

Published: 02 June 2017

► Ian Callum talks future design trends
► Designer awarded university professorship
► New National Transport Design Centre opened

Huge changes are inevitable in the car world – but there will still be room for petrolheads. So says Ian Callum, Jaguar’s director of design. He was speaking at the opening of the new National Transport Design Centre at Coventry University, already home to some world-renowned automotive design courses.

Callum unveiled a mural he created on the public-facing exterior wall of the new building (pictured below), and was awarded a visiting professorship.

David Wright, the university’s strategic initiatives director, told CAR: ‘It’s really desperately important that we have connections with people like Ian. This visiting professorship is a genuine thank-you for what he has done and for what he’s going to do in the future, encouraging young people to think laterally.

‘’The enthusiasm and credibility oozes from him. If Ian says it, they believe it; he brings authority from the real world.’

Wright added: ‘We have a great reputation, with graduates everywhere in the automotive industry, but we need to move the game on.

Ian Callum's mural on the wall of the new National Transport Design Centre at Coventry University

‘Everything is going to change’

‘’There’s a lot more competition than when we started. The amount of design capability in China has to be taken seriously. What keeps us at the forefront of design education is good research. Our authority to teach comes from our research.

‘We find ourselves at a point where the whole future of transport is changing. When I joined the industry [as a mechanical engineer] everything we did was little improvements on what we already did. But now there are some game-changing ideas. The next 20-30 years is going to be so exciting. What we do know is that everything is going to change. As a university, we have got to explore what these alternatives might look like.’

Ian Callum at Coventry University

‘Nobody thought cars had a future’

Callum contrasted today’s tech tumult with the early ’70s, when he first went to Coventry as a design student.

‘In 1972 nobody wanted cars, because of the oil crisis. People had written them off. It was a difficult time to go into car design. Politicians had decided that the motor car had a short future and we would all be using public transport. For an impressionable 18-year-old, this was quite depressing.

‘The difference today is that the changes now are something we are more in control of. You have to set the agenda. You have to be a visionary and predict what’s going to happen in five, 10, 15, 20 years’ time.

‘The turning point for autonomy will be sooner than people think’

‘The process of autonomy is a given. At JLR, we will be in the forefront of that. Autonomy, urbanisation, how you purchase and use cars, and electrification – these are all huge factors.

‘When will that turning point be? In my opinion it will be sooner than a lot of people think. It’s inevitable. A lot of that momentum will come from the car industry. But the real transformation will come when local and national governments sort the infrastructure.

1932 Ford Hi-Boy Coupe

‘I think there will still be a place for V8s. Because there will be so few of them, the fuel they burn will be a drop in the ocean. I only do 200-300 miles a year in my V8 hot rod [above], for instance.

‘The challenge for us all is this: how do you create a seamless journey with new technology, while still holding on to the things Jaguar owners find important? In any given journey, part might be in a beautiful limo, part in a train, part in a driverless pod. We need to figure out Jaguar’s role in that.’

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions