We talk to former Koenigsegg design boss Sasha Selipanov about electric vehicles, boring design trends and more

Over the past hundred years, countless people have dabbled in automotive design in one way or another. They may have drawn something on a napkin and then forgotten about it forever.

Among these groups, very few are professional designers. Fewer still have had the skills and circumstances that allow them to get their hands on hypercars that will one day become veritable driving and driving parts of automotive royalty. One of those very few is Sasha Selipanov.

Although far from finished, Selipanov has already had a lasting impact on the history of automotive design. This includes a stop at Lamborghini where he was instrumental in designing the Huracan before moving to Bugatti where he led the exterior design team that created the Chiron and Vision Gran Turismo.

Also read: Koenigsegg launches a modern version of the CC8S called CC850

Sasha Selipanov | Photo Genesis

He then moved on to Genesis where he helped the brand create its design identity through stunning work like that of the Genesis Essentia. Most recently, he served as Head of Design at Koenigsegg, where he designed the four-seat Gemera hypercar before working on the new CC850. Recently, he sat down with Carscoops to talk about automotive design and his unique vision.

[CS=Carscoops l SP=Sasha Selipanov]

CS: When designing a car like the CC850, what facets of the CC8 design stood out as fundamental (things you knew you would keep for the CC850)? How did you decide what to update?

SP: This was done in close collaboration with Christian von Koenigsegg. The original CC8S was a very big milestone for the company and for the sports car industry. Celebrating its design while modernizing it was therefore a fascinating challenge. Luckily, the man responsible for the original was also heavily involved in the new incarnation.

Photo Anton Ptouchkin

On the design side, I tried to bring a more modern surface approach, improved volumes, toned muscles, a modern and technical design language inside…all aimed at giving the car a sober but useful look, looking for something timeless and pure. We had an incredible team working on this project, the best I’ve ever known. Ultimately, it seems like the CC850 is a bit of an antidote to the prevailing trend in the hyper car world where “more” is often seen as better.

CS: After wanting to work with Koenigsegg for years before this happened, you now have many years and several successful projects there. How does reality compare to the dream?

SP: I am very lucky. For a sports car enthusiast, having designed for Lamborghini and Bugatti already felt like a dream come true. However, since the early 2000s, I dreamed of working at Koenigsegg. Something about this company’s no-nonsense approach to sports cars combined with a rebellious attitude just struck me. The years spent at Koenigsegg were among the most valuable of my professional life.

Christian von Koeingsegg and Sasha Selipanov | Photo Koeingsegg

I learned a lot from the team there and from Christian von Koenigsegg personally. It was also a very productive time in my career with the opportunity to lead a great team, design and contribute to the cars that I am very proud of. Both Gemera and CC850 are very special to me as they resonate even more with my personal tastes than previous projects I was responsible for.

CS: How have recent innovations in materials science, production methods and engineering influenced your work over the past five years?

SP: While there are tons of exciting advancements in these areas, I don’t think it’s the innovations themselves that have influenced my work. Rather, it is the belief that good design cannot exist outside of the constraints and freedoms offered by materials science, production methods and engineering.

Today, car manufacturers have become so big that they operate in silos: engineers and designers work separately, each focused on its subject, fighting for its interests. Often designers focus primarily on aesthetics and have little say in things like vehicle architecture or product placement strategy.

This was not the case at the time. The big designers (Giugiaro for example) were much more involved in the development of the complete car, they also knew much more about the whole process.

I’m inspired by this old-fashioned way of working. I like to go as deep as possible, “nerding” about all the awesome engineering, packaging, performance, stress analysis, aerodynamics, lightness, ergonomics, human factors, logistics , production, marketing, sales, customer interaction and, and , and!

CS: As a gearhead, what do you think of EVs and what is the hardest thing about designing an EV?

SP: I would argue that EVs offer an improvement over ICE platforms for passenger/family cars in every way imaginable. You get more usable space for occupants and luggage, a longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs, bigger wheels and (with modern battery cells and smart packaging) a neat skateboard. and compact for transmission. No sentimental feelings for old-school ICE daily commuters.

It’s in the worlds of performance cars and hypercars that electric vehicles face a slightly tougher battle. While performance is certainly reaching new heights (think Lucid Air’s Goodwood rise time), we still have to find ways to compensate for some of the old-school automotive drama, smells, sounds and vibrations that have worn faded away. I may have some ideas on how this can be done… There are a few projects going on right now that will hopefully address this.

CS: What’s the most boring car design trend today?

SP: Definitely the “fashionization” of automotive design. When I look at architecture, product design, consumer electronics, and other neighboring creative fields, I find them much less trend-conscious and much less fashion-driven. The “form follows function” philosophy is alive and well when it comes to our iPhones and MacBooks. By comparison, I feel like the design of cars has become very aesthetically pleasing, which somehow makes it cheap, replaceable, and disposable.

True beauty is lost in a sea of ​​segment-filling facelifts and derivatives. There are definitely exceptions, some of the EV startups have delivered some super inspired designs, but, overall, I think the auto industry would do well to refocus on shorter product cycles and a “sporty and emotional” focused on marketing towards a truly sustainable style. , sober and durable designs.

CS: What are some of your favorite electric vehicle models?

SP: For me, the work that my friends at Canoo, Lucid and Polestar have done really stands out. I’ve always been a fan of the ‘less is more’ approach to design and what these three brands are doing feels right to me.

CS: You said that your idea of ​​good design has changed from just focusing on what “looks cool”. How do you prioritize the different aspects of design, from branding to functionality to feasibility etc. ?

SP: I try to see a car from the most zoomed out point of view possible. What type of vehicle is it? What is its primary function and what is its place in the world? Is it a rugged, functional tool or a world-record-breaking athlete, a small business problem solver, or a family friend ready for anything?

I think the best cars in the world are the ones that achieve that sense of harmony between aesthetics and function, they look beautiful in a holistic way. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the Defender, the Mini, the original Golf or the 330 P4, all of these cars are at peace with their true nature and that is why they look iconic and beautiful.

CS: Is there a segment or type of car in particular that you consider the most difficult to design?

SP: Cars that don’t have a clear mission are very difficult to design. The difficulties don’t come from the outright design challenges of sculpting volumes or applying graphics. The project briefing should ideally generate a strong emotional reaction. Otherwise, it can be difficult to find a shape for something that looks bland, artificial, and confusing.

CS: Which designers influenced you the most growing up?

SP: I wasn’t too influenced by designers when I was a kid. Information about car design was scarce in the 90s in post-Soviet Russia. I loved sports cars and mainly Ferraris. All kinds of different Ferraris from all eras. Various 250s, sports prototypes, supercars from the 80s and many different Formula 1s. I remember being so disappointed with the lazy and unspectacular design of the F50.

It wasn’t until Art Center College of Design that I started learning about the people behind the cars. In college I had some big influences, I vividly remember Ken Okuyama’s Automotive Architecture course and Derek Jenkins’ mentorship during my internship at the Volkswagen Design Center in California.

Later in my career I had the good fortune to work with and learn from some of the best names in the industry: Walter De Silva, Thomas Ingenlath, Peter Schreyer, Achim Anscheidt, Luc Donckerwolke and most recently Christian von Koenigsegg . All of them had a big impact on my development as a designer.

CS: We all love classic supercars like the Miura and F40, but what’s your all-time favorite mainstream car design?

SP: All sorts of favourites, hard to boil down to one. Golf Mk1, Alfa (Bertone) GTV, Datsun 510, Lada Niva, Lancia Delta Integrale, Land Rover Defender, Golf Mk4, the original Mini, Audi A2… so many beautiful cars! But of course I’m obsessed with sports cars and there’s nothing quite like the emotions I get when I see a GT40 or a 312P. The list of sports cars I like is extremely long.

CS: Who is your daily driver?

SP: R35 GT-R: 90% of the performance of the Bugatti Veyron for around 3% of the price. For some, her look is an acquired taste but I’ve always been a fan. The R35 instantly became my dream car when it was released. Obsession started with a 10 scale Tamiya RC in 2008 or 2009.

CS: Is it stock?

SP: My GT-R is almost stock. It has 15mm spacers front and rear and a beautiful Y-pipe that Ben Shaffer (Bulletproof Automotive, Unplugged Performance) sent me. The car has always felt quite fast, but now it also sounds great.

CS: In May, you mentioned that it was time for a new mission. Can you say more about your mission?

SP: Unfortunately, it is too early to talk about my next project in detail. With my new team we are working on very exciting cars for very special companies which will be revealed when the time comes. Also, I always aim for something big. My whole life has been chasing dreams, no reason to stop now.

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