Aston Martin Chief Creative Office and Executive Vice President Marek Reichman next to the automaker's Valkyrie hypercar on a blue background

Aston Martin’s Marek Reichman isn’t worried about EVs or Bond

“I shed a little tear from time to time,” laughs Marek Reichman. Aston Martin’s design director of 17 years mourns the passing of the growling, growling V12. As if the impending revamp of the James Bond franchise – with which the British automaker has been intimately associated since 1964 – wasn’t worrying enough, the new Vantage will be the last Aston Martin to have such a huge engine under its bonnet.

“But there’s actually more freedom of form in the design of electric motor cars,” adds Reichman, saying what is, in some oil neighborhoods, the unspeakable. “If you think of a V12 or a V8, it’s a pretty big, tough piece with some mass and volume and positioning, then compare that with a smaller, lighter, configurable battery at the infinite. You can imagine the possibility of doing things differently. The industry has not yet been brave enough to seek out a new form language. If you look at a Tesla, it looks like a normal sedan. I don’t think Elon was ready to give drivers a new way to interact with a car, a new form of propulsion and a new style too. But it will come. »

Reichman may work at one of the world’s most esteemed automakers, but he’s all about change. He says change, for him, is the very definition of design. For one thing, he jokes, absolutely nothing has changed at Aston Martin during his time there, where he is currently chief creative officer and executive vice president. His task has been the same: to make “beautifully proportioned cars, and I like to think that if an alien came down from Mars and saw a DB5 and didn’t know what it was, he’d think the same.” On the other hand, everything changed: Reichman had to embrace new technologies and materials and extend Aston’s design language to a hypercar and an SUV.

“I think they’re all recognizable as Aston Martin, so you don’t even need the grille anymore,” he adds. “You can look at an Apple product and you know it’s Apple. And I hope it will be the same for Aston Martin products. »

Indeed, “products” is the appropriate word, because while Aston Martin will, Reichman says, always be on cars, it has tried to apply its signature to a motorcycle in conjunction with Brough Superior, founder Lionel’s runabout choice. Martin, and, much less aerodynamic than Aston Martin cars in general, a building in Miami and even a bottle of whiskey for Bowmore.

“I had more likes on LinkedIn for this bottle than for the Valkyrie [hypercar]says Reichman. “What does that mean? That there are more alcoholics on LinkedIn? I don’t know. And of course it doesn’t look anything like an Aston Martin. It’s a bottle of whisky. But you could say it looks like the Aston Martin of whiskey bottles, I think that shows that we have strength in the brand.

You have one like distribute. Which gets it?

Aston Martin

But Reichman always saw himself not as an automotive specialist but as a broader-minded industrial designer. Sure, it still has wheels, but little is known about the fact that Reichman co-developed the next generation of London’s iconic Routemaster bus.

“I don’t want to discredit anyone in car design, because style is extremely important. Style is being given a platform, not really understanding how to change it, and putting a nice shape on it,” says Reichman. “But an industrial designer – and I’m an industrial designer who loves cars – works from the blank sheet of paper with the engineer, seeking to incorporate the visual language into their making.”

“The people who designed the Spitfire weren’t responsible for making it look good,” he adds. “They were told to make a plane that will outperform this other plane. And they used their knowledge of aerodynamics, materials science, aluminum bending, etc., and ended up with a beautiful object. Similarly, I’m tasked with finding the best solutions for a product, and ultimately for the business as well. You must be able to build and sell these items and make a profit.

The Aston Martin Rapide, the marque's very first four-door car

The Rapide was Aston Martin’s first four-door car, developed under Marek Reichman.

Aston Martin

That Reichman’s work is shaped by business-oriented problem solving perhaps stems from his background. Born in 1966 in Sheffield, still England’s heavy industrial heartland for steelmaking while Reichman was growing up, he says his enthusiasm for cars came from his “car-mad” brother, though that his wider fascination with the way things work, the “thinginess” of stuff, came from his father, a blacksmith.

“Back then, you could see the sparks flying off the walls of the factory and feel the vibrations, before the factory became the largest shopping mall in the world,” Reichman recalls. “Watching him develop these incredible pieces of metalwork fascinated me. He made me curious how things are done. His philosophy has always been “if it’s broken, try to fix it”. We had the TV spread across three chairs for a while. He had made it work again but couldn’t put it back. We couldn’t go near the TV in case we were electrocuted.

Reichman studied design at the Royal College of Art in London. Prior to joining Aston Martin, he had worked with Rover Cars, BMW Designworks in California and Ford, having helped design the Lincoln MKX, Range Rover Mk III and Rolls-Royce Phantom. He left Ford for Aston Martin and the first year he designed his very first four-door car and saw DBS put James Bond back in an Aston too.

A red Aston Martin DBX, the first SUV from the British manufacturer

Yes, Aston Martin is making an SUV now.

Aston Martin

Now he faces arguably the most interesting challenges of his career, especially since, apparently, he has long focused on designing loud, thrilling sports cars. Now it faces electrification and the rise of the SUV.

“Is the SUV the future of cars? It’s a very interesting question. Gen Z and Millennials already see SUVs as the standard definition of “car”. If I ask design students to draw a car, they draw an SUV. It shows you how much the language of cars has changed,” he explains (it’s a trend he knows intimately well as the leader behind the massive success of Aston Martin’s DBX).

“Will this mean the death of sports cars? I do not think so. It’s like horses. They were once used for pulling, lifting, working. Now they are for recreational riding, eventing or racing. It will be the same for sports cars. They will offer you to drive for fun. Of course, they will have to meet emissions regulations. But they are already sustainable in a way. If you think 96% of Aston Martin cars ever built still exist, those aren’t things you really get rid of. That said, if at the moment the most expensive cars have two doors, I think that in the future SUVs will be collector cars. And, of course, the industrial designer in me sees that in the more distant future, we’ll all be moving around in electrified modules, or something, because driving habits no longer make sense.

It could send more shivers through the petrolhead community: the man who carved Aston Martin for nearly two decades saying the future can be automated and regulated. It’s not the lure of the open road. But Reichman is not afraid.

“The challenge is to make beauty, simplicity and dynamic form apply to all market requirements, and that’s changing,” he says. “The bus was one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on. The technology of this thing was amazing. And that’s how I learned what makes an icon.

Perhaps that’s why he’s convinced that when James Bond returns to the big screen, the reboot will allow some sort of Aston Martin to be there with him, too. “Wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, I think Bond will be looking for us,” Reichman says. “It’s a partnership. It would be a brave director who omitted an Aston Martin. »

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