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Onelife 25

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Look back at the birth of the original Land Rover | How Land Rover has driven adventure and scientific exploration | GQ Editor Dylan Jones talks inspiration with Chief Design Officer Gerry McGovern | Exploring the potential impact of electrification and connected vehicles | Tackling the 999 steep steps up to Heaven’s Gate in China

GERRY MCGOVERN INTERVIEW

GERRY MCGOVERN INTERVIEW Gerry McGovern is a law unto himself: as a hard taskmaster, he is demanding in his expectations and unrelenting in his ambitions. The rules, however, are meant to be broken, and he appears to spend as much time questioning his own beliefs as those of the many people who work with him. Since re-joining Land Rover in 2004 – after various stints at Chrysler, Peugeot, Rover and Ford – McGovern has succeeded in reinventing Land Rover as a brand, developing a product range relevant to the 21st century: first, there was the Range Rover Evoque, then the All-New Range Rover, the Range Rover Sport, the new Discovery and the compact Discovery Sport, and, of course, the Range Rover Velar, his most reductionist creation yet. A next iteration of the Defender is around the corner, as is a conveyor belt of new models waiting to be revealed, many of which will radically alter the way we think of the brand. In McGovern’s own words, the starting point is a vision – and at the heart of that vision is a fundamental understanding of the modern vehicle as an object of its time in terms of technology, engineering and design. But, above all, it has to be desired. DJ: How did you first become interested in technology? GM: For me, technology is just another tool. I’m interested in design-enabling technology rather than tech for the sake of it. This is because over-complexity of technology is an irritant. When somebody engages with a product they look at it in its totality and for me it’s about the emotional connection this brings; if tech can elevate and amplify it, then great. But tech should facilitate design. The sweet spot is the acceleration of the design process. Computers have allowed us to be even more creative by getting things done quicker. Ultimately, we embrace technology to elevate the desirability of the product: to make it safer, faster and, in our case, more modernist. You seem obsessed with modernism, with constantly honing and refining your vision? Modernism is a philosophy, a movement, a design approach that embraces looking forward. Within this philosophy is an inherent reductive approach, which, for me, means getting rid of excess and the unnecessary. “ULTIMATELY, WE EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY TO ELEVATE THE DESIRABILITY OF THE PRODUCT: TO MAKE IT SAFER, FASTER AND, IN THE CASE OF THE RANGE ROVER VELAR, MORE MODERN” GERRY MCGOVERN The Range Rover Velar (right) is Gerry McGovern’s most reductionist creation yet. The interior is deliberately free of nonessential design elements That was very much the case with the Range Rover Velar, particularly the interior, where we deliberately eradicated extraneous design features. In the automotive industry, I don’t think anyone’s really harnessed modernism fully. For example, when I look at some cars, it’s like Zorro’s been at them, with a line here, a line there, creating total visual confusion. Good design fundamentally starts with optimum volume of proportions. Once you’ve achieved that, theoretically it’s like a suit – if you cut it really well and the overall proportion is right, you should be fine. If you suddenly include a lot of lines and detail, you’re confusing the message. I feel the same way about architecture. I’ve never understood why some people seem content to live in a house that feels like it was created 200 years ago. Why not celebrate the future? What technology has done in this respect is allow us to develop things that have a genuine sense of looking forward, rather than looking back. You’re very precise and very demanding of your team. Are you often disappointed by the limitations of the manufacturing process? In many respects, I think automotive design has always played second fiddle to engineering. There was always a realization that design was a big contributor toward product desirability, but I think the level of creative intellect that’s gone into it in the past is maybe not as sophisticated as it could have been. Ultimately, the way a company is set up makes a massive difference to the design sensibility. If you’ve got people running the company that don’t recognize the value of design, then invariably the company isn’t going to produce good designs. One of the benefits we have at Land Rover is that there is a recognition of the relevance of design. You’ve got to give designers the ability to optimize their 68

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