Mar.05 - Car makers are increasingly trying to rediscover their design flair. And as Jullian Satterthwaite report from the Geneva International Motor Show it comes in all shapes and sizes.
Car makers are getting bolder. The Citroen Cactus looks like a concept car, but will actually hit showrooms soon. The funky plastic side panels can be changed if you have a minor scrape, or just fancy a change of colour. For Citroen it's a case of rediscovering its mojo. The company once know for cutting edge designs like the DS of the 1960s became more conservative over the years, and saw its sales slide. Now the company is trying to revive sales with a rediscovered design flair. It's not alone. Renault's new Twingo is a cute small car that answers criticisms its predecessor was too staid. Renault hopes it will ape the huge success of Fiat's design driven 500. The Renegade shows that even SUV maker Jeep is trying to produce a four-by-four that looks a little different. Automotive analyst Jay Nagley says the Ford Fiesta is a good example of how design can change the fortunes of a car: (SOUNDBITE) (English): JAY NAGLEY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, REDSPY, SAYING (English): "Top management said to the designers this car has to look great, it has to look dynamic, it has to look sporty. That's your job. Come back to us if you've got any problems with packaging or costs or engineering and we'll find a way of solving them. The number one priority is a dynamic look. They achieved that and the sales, particularly in Europe, really prove how important that is." The design revolution is spreading to some unlikely places. Sweden's Volvo once made a virtue of being conservative. Now it's latest concept car proves that boxy wagons are a thing of the past. Chief executive Hakan Samuelsson says good looks are now obligatory: (SOUNDBITE) (English): HAKAN SAMUELSSON, VOLVO CEO, SAYING: "We are trying to add a more attractive design really to the old traditional values of Volvo. In the future, to attract newer customers, younger customers, I think it's very important to have a special and attractive design." Kia is proof that design can work wonders for sales. Once known for cheap, functional cars, the brand was revolutionised by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer. His new-look vehicles saw sales rise by as much as 20 percent a year. Kia Motors Europe COO Michael Cole: (SOUNDBITE) (English): MICHAEL COLE, KIA MOTORS EUROPE COO, SAYING: "These are a lot of new customers that we've attracted to the brand. We're very confident that with the quality of the cars that they're now experiencing we have a real opportunity to retain those first-time buyers as first time buyers of Kias." If Kia proves that good design can save a car company, then Citroen, for one, will be hoping that it's not too late to repeat the trick.