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Australia’s GoMotiv takes on car design world

Virtual modelling tech helps Aussie car design house GoMotiv punch above its weight

18 Jun 2024

THE adage about the size of the dog in the fight seems rather apt when it comes to Melbourne-based GoMotiv. 
A small studio of highly skilled former General Motors Holden designers is taking on design teams from across the globe, competing against big-name studios with extravagant budgets and years of development time with efficient, digitised, and incredible designs that are putting the industry on notice. 
Based in what was once the Carlton United Breweries brewmaster’s residence, the dozen-strong GoMotiv crew delivers what is usually produced by hundreds in a fraction of the time, and a fraction of the cost, thanks in no small part to the very latest in virtual modelling – some of which was even developed in-house. 
The size of the fight in this particular canine is represented by an end-to-end design process so streamlined that GoMotiv has proven its capability to complete the work for concept and production vehicles, each aimed at vastly different segments, in around six months apiece. 
“There had been a six-month process in terms of time for the VF Wild (ute) show car,” explained GoMotiv studio director Robert Thorpe. 
“That was all done in-house here, and the team worked very fast from a design studio perspective. The VF Wild concept marks the first time an Australian independent studio has produced a full show car, and similarly the VF3 the first production car for global release.” 
Mr Thorpe, whose resumé includes a decade with GM’s Advanced Design Studio in Los Angeles, says what GoMotiv delivers is unique in automotive design circles, using the latest tools to build programs that can help to design vehicles from concept to production without expensive physical modelling. 
“This is a passionate team that does not want to see the industry here in Australia go away,” he enthused. 
“We are a confident team with a wealth of experience, and the digital tools that we are using now work very well. There are absolutely no qualms (from our clients) about the quality or the proportions or anything like that. 
“What we’re seeing now is a lot of new companies out there who want to get their products to market fast – and with leading designs. Speed is key, and that is a big part of what we’re able to provide. 
“In the case of the VF Wild Concept, we were able to cut at least 18 months from the design process.” 
The VF3 electric micro car design took just 26 weeks from start to end. 
Sampling the design technology for ourselves via a VR headset, it is impressive to see not only the realistic detail of the finished product (or ‘A’ surface), but also the degree with which the vehicle’s individual sculpted components interreact with the structure – and the vehicle’s mechanical and electronic framework. 
To the untrained eye, it’s like existing in a digital realm. Walking, turning, and almost touching the design in real time. It’s part computer game, part CAD model. Almost as if TRON had evolved into reality. 
Justin Thompson, GoMotiv creative director and former Holden and GM China and United States designer, told GoAuto that the wealth of knowledge retained from the departure of General Motors Holden has seen the rise of opportunity for many talented staff, particularly those from design and engineering backgrounds. 
“Our shared experience has allowed us to get to this stage. We have the experience of working for an OEM and understand that process. We’re fortunate to have those skills,” he said. 
“This team is the cream of the crop, and many have been in the industry for decades. Being able to leverage that (experience) has allowed us to get this studio set up and grow rather quickly which shows what I think we have always known – that Australia can compete on the global stage.” 
In addition to creating attractive designs, the experience of the GoMotiv team means it can provide a systematic approach to production readiness often overlooked by start-up manufacturers. 
Mr Thorpe said the ability to create themes (or a ‘design language’, as it is commonly known) and a means of designing vehicles in such a way that they are production ready has saved months, or even years, from the overall process. 
“In addition to creating singular designs, we’ve also supported VinFast to develop its own design language, and that’s starting to shine through in the models that are coming into production now,” he added. 
“The VinFast team were quick to understand that and have been terrific in communicating the direction they want to head – and the VF Wild Concept is a great example of that. 
“This is a vehicle that is grounded in reality. It’s not a far-reaching concept. It really could go into production. 
“As with any client, we create a bank of themes for them to choose from. So, while we might have an idea of roughly how the design language should be, the client always has input into what is finally chosen – or how a design language shouldn’t be. 
“And that was true of the pick-up truck; we worked from 20 or 30 different themes down to six or seven before the client found one they really wanted to move forward with, and a lot of that isn’t based purely on design. 
“It’s also about positioning the vehicle in the market, and the target customer, which in this case was something far more than a basic fleet vehicle. It made the process really interesting, kind of unique, and it has really opened up the door for us.” 
Designing vehicles in the digital realm also allows more flexibility than would otherwise be possible, with Mr Thorpe saying that the ability to change course quickly if required, or to move rapidly into new segments as the need arises. 
“It is really refreshing that VinFast doesn’t have that kind of legacy hangovers a lot of OEMs do. If they decide they want to go after a segment, then they do. The chairman has some pretty strong ideas about where he wants the company to be,” he said. 
“We’ve helped here as well. Our experience has allowed us to work with the chief engineer to determine overall dimensions, where occupants sit, suspension hard points, all that sort of stuff, even before we get the theming started. 
“It is almost design dictating engineering, rather than the other way around.” 
With so many new manufacturers entering the market, especially in the EV space, the requirement for design work is only set to grow. 
What’s more, the skill set demonstrated by GoMotiv is adaptable beyond the four-wheeled space, with motorcycles, e-bikes, buses and even trucks providing opportunities for the growing team. 
“These skill sets can be readily applied to other projects, and that is part of what will help us become competitive globally,” added Mr Thrope. 
“Being able to create high-end visualisation like this is a difficult task, but not if it’s your core thing. We have all these incredibly talented people under one roof who are delivering superb quality; and equally they’re delivering it really fast. 

“We’re proud that we have been able to position ourselves that way – it’s like providing a turn-key solution – and who knows where it’ll take us next.”

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