A Concept Car as a design manifesto. Francesca Sangalli, Head of Colour&Trim and Concept&Strategy Seat Cupra tells us about it

Their participation in Milan Design Week was somewhat provocatively called The rebel side of design, but consistent with the way in which Cupra, the Volkswagen Group's young made-in-Barcelona car brand, presents itself. And indeed, as a visiting card, in front of its permanent space, the Cupra Garage in Corso Como, the brand has put on display an irreverent and innovative concept car, the DarkRebel. We talk about it with Francesca Sangalli, Cupra's design director.

DarkRebel has far too aggressive lines. You say it is a Cupra design manifesto. What are the key elements of this manifesto?

We wanted to make a reflection on the themes that we are already dealing with and that we already put into our production cars. The DarkRebel contains our entire laboratory of experimentation that we are going to put into the portfolio of new cars between now and 2028.

For example?

Parametric Design, which uses algorithms to process creative cues: we are using it to make certain surfaces more pleasing to the eye and touch, with evolutionary 3D graphics. Then all of us builders are engaged in the energy transition, we are studying more eco-friendly materials. A complex development because it requires, of course, the homologation of these new compounds. The automotive industry is a very complex world.

The subject of using recycled materials is not trivial.

It is not so simple. The problem is availability and continuity, i.e. once the material has been chosen, it must also be producible in the necessary quantities over a long period of time. Even more complex is the use of recycled aluminium for parts subject to wear, because strength characteristics also come into play. However, in principle, the goal of using 100 per cent recyclable is not impossible. Moreover, creating our own aesthetics, linked to our design criteria.

DarkRebel has surfaces that reflect light in a very special way...

As far as the light talk is concerned, we wanted to test it, to see its potential. Certainly the iridescent colour we called Drop of Mercury was really challenging, already at showcar level. I have no idea how and with what costs it could be put into production... let alone! But you always start with a vision and then work on it. Colour is a layer that is added to the material, it changes the perception.

There is a lot of talk about Lightning in the interior, how the customer can change the lighting of the car's environment. Sometimes it feels a bit like a game....

Ah yes, the user plays with it at first and then stops... In Cupra, on the other hand, we want to see how we can use light to define a particular experience inside the car and thus reinforce what you, the home, want to communicate. In DarkRebel you can see it exponentially because we have increased the sensations inside the car, lights and sounds to implement the discourse on intangibility.

Please explain...

A new thing. Limiting the use of material, only where it is needed, without waste, and having light as an additional intangible layer, transparency, here I see a good narrative for the future.

Cupra was a model now it is a successful brand. Usually the opposite happens. What's more, built without playing on the price variable, but on the strength of design and technology.

True. We worked hard on the definition of the Cupra brand. No compromises, everything consistent. And I think that shows.

How do you reconcile the Cupra's dynamic image with the reduction of fuel consumption, the energy transition?

Electrification can have the theme of sportiness, without the fuel. The passion for driving is no longer related to consumption. Cupra's main premise is precisely to make cars for people who enjoy driving.

Is design a central element of car choice, even more so with electrification?

Absolutely so. Design is among the most saleable elements of Cupra. Everything is done with a very strong design consistency, from the car to merchandising to events. Cupra's success stems from this disruptive approach!

Last question: is the idea still valid that the car should reproduce in the interior the shapes and feelings of living in general?

Not for Cupra. Our cars are not living. They are designed to have the driver at the centre, to create emotions for the driver, other codes than living. What remains in common is the theme of attention to design, to beauty, to detail, which applies to living as much as to cars.