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Tesla’s chief designer says third-gen car design could be more expressive & couture

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The design of Tesla’s Model S is about as clean and refined as it gets. During an interview with me yesterday at our Roadmap conference, Tesla’s Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen described the Model S design as lean and athletic and said it has a sort of classic “ready to wear” element. In contrast von Holzhausen said Tesla’s third-generation car — which will start to get designed next year — has the opportunity to be “more expressive,” and “couture” in its look.

If you’re not familiar with the fashion terms, ready-to-wear describes the clothing that most people buy from stores — they’re made in standard sizes at a factory, and usually they’re designed to be pretty palatable to a mainstream audience. Couture is a term that describes more high end fashion that’s made to measure and is often times associated with riskier, more provocative fashion.

Tesla Model S

So basically Tesla’s third-gen car could potentially have a more provocative look. Before joining Tesla, von Holzhausen made a name for himself at Mazda North America, GM and Volkswagen for designing really provocative cars.

But don’t expect anything way out there. Von Holzhausen said that Tesla doesn’t want to alienate anybody, as they’re on a mission to bring electrification to the masses with the Gen 3 car and it will have the same widespread appeal as the Model S. Von Holzhausen describes the Gen 3 to me as:

As cool as anything we’ve done today and better.

Interestingly, in the interview at Roadmap, von Holzhausen also said that the Gen 3 will get an entirely new electrification platform and won’t be based on the current one that the Model S and X are using. The design on the Gen 3 car will start in 2014.

15 Responses to “Tesla’s chief designer says third-gen car design could be more expressive & couture”

  1. I really am not a big fan of the interior controls with that I-Pad looking thing just slapped in the middle there. When driving, if you need to adjust anything in a normal car such as AC, all you need to do is feel for the control knob or button. However, with these touch-screen controls you have to be looking at the screen in order to accurately use the controls. i feel like it’s too big as well and can be very distracting while driving.

  2. Thanks, Ucilia & Katie for getting right in there on comments (appreciate the little bit of attitude).
    Remember–how much attention do over 100,000 internal combustion engine vehicle fires a year get? All these drivers walked away without a scrach…
    After enjoying driving a Volt and a Leaf for three years, the Volt’s lease is up, and we’re replacing it with an S. A larger and more ostentatious car than we wanted, but it’s far better than anything else out there. Maybe we’ll trade DOWN to the third-generation car in 2015.
    — Felix Kramer, founder, CalCars.,org and

  3. It just needs some improvements. You are right Consumer Reports the Tesla scoring a 99 percent top rating for performance even though it’s an electric car. I just don’t like the bad publicity it showed in the past months.

    • Tesla is just beginning and you can bet Mr.Musk keeps all details on his radar. He is boldly going where no man has gone before…. Consider the red tapes, oil companies, traditional car companies, republicans, betting his own fortune and so on. People are pulling over and walking away and in time the refinements will come as they did from the roadster to model s. People have to be reasonable and give it time instead of making a mole into a mountain.

  4. The new Gen 3 model S Tesla doesn’t seem sophisticated enough to buy it. The design looks like a Mazda, which comes under the term “ready to wear.” Lets hope they fix the bugs that led to an exploding car a while back.

      • Actually it was the Model S that caught fire in 3 different incidents. The first one occurred in Seattle after someone going southbound on Route 167 hit some debri on the freeway and somehow ignited a fire in the car. The second one was a crash in Mexico and third one was in Tennessee from a car accident. It appears that when the Tesla is involved in a wreck it goes up in flames. The news for the car manufacturers looks gloomy after these fires while their stock continues to plummet. Lets hope they pull themselves out of this mess soon.

      • I was just saying what was on the news by a professor of engineering that commented about lithium batteries being in a car with gasoline. He mentioned he wouldn’t want to be in a car with lithium and gas, which could trigger an explosion when you hit something. I’m just saying….

        • Dustin Eward

          “I’m just saying….” dumb things.

          Just because other morons said it, doesn’t make repeating it any less dumb. Plenty of educated idiots with degrees and even doctorates.

          I was “this close” to buying a Model S, but the Model E sound more like what I want. I’m willing to wait. A truck would be great… I haven’t felt impressed by a company in my entire life. I wish I were part of Tesla, it impresses me.

    • What’s the contradiction? Von Holzhausen used the term “couture” to talk about designing a trend-setting car, not a more expensive car, if that’s what you are getting at. It’d be interesting to see if Tesla could break with traditions here and there, and whether it could still get all the nuts and bolts stuff right (such as fixing the component supply issue).