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Subaru design chief gets spiritual

Eye to the future: "If you were to step back from the B11S (above) and blur your eyes, that gives an indication of Subaru's future look," says Andreas Zapatinas.

Subaru chief designer Andreas Zapatinas does not want to polarise opinion

12 Jun 2003

ALTHOUGH Subaru chief designer Andreas Zapatinas - a former understudy of controversial BMW stylist Chris Bangle - has bold plans for the Japanese brand, he does not intend to take it down a design path that will polarise opinion.

"We're not out there to stir people up," he told GoAuto during the recent launch in Japan of the fourth generation Subaru Liberty.

"The spiritual element rather than specific design elements will inspire our future products." Mr Bangle's controversially styled 7 Series saloon has been the subject of much publicity - most of it bad - since its 2001 launch.

By contrast, Mr Zapatinas plans to tread a more conservative route, even though "innovation, courage and individuality" would symbolise future Subaru designs.

"Cars are now 100 years old so they have their own past, culture and history," he said, before adding: "You can even do excellent designs based on modern architecture".

Speaking about the B11S concept car, unveiled at this year's Geneva motor show, Mr Zapatinas said: "If you were to step back from the B11S and blur your eyes, that gives an indication of Subaru's future look".

B11S is essentially the first tangible step in Subaru's quest to come up with a global face for its family of vehicles. Company insiders suggest Subaru will explore other variations on the theme with upcoming concept cars.

While working on future products is obviously the priority, Mr Zapatinas said his first focus outside Japan was to reinforce Subaru's American design facility.

One of this design centre's recent efforts is the Liberty/Outback-based Baja - a cross-over, dual-cab utility pitched specifically at the North American market. Sales of the vehicle have been lukewarm to date.

Explaining his reasons for coming to Subaru, Mr Zapatinas said: "Why did I come to Subaru? Because they are great people and they make great products. I've always considered Subaru something very special. The challenge is to make great cars - not just mimic other people's designs." Mr Zapatinas' career highlights include the design of the cute Fiat Barchetta, and one of the jobs he is most proud of is the rear of the Alfa 145, which features a V-shaped rear screen and tail-lights that resemble cat's eyes.

He is the second European designer to run the design centre of a Japanese car-maker - the other being Olivier Boulay, who leads Mitsubishi design centres worldwide.

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