Currently reading: The ex-Aston Martin designer in charge of Dacia's future
We ask Miles Nürnberger how Gaydon's super-GTs and hypercars will inform his work at Dacia
Autocar-Felix-Page
News
5 mins read
2 October 2021

It’s one thing designing a 1160bhp V12-powered hypercar that will only ever be sold in strictly limited numbers, and quite another to be responsible for the styling of what is now Europe’s best-selling car – especially when the former will cost around 280 times that of the latter. Never would thetwo be mentioned in the same sentence, let alone fettled by the same hands, surely?

Step forward, Miles Nürnberger, the well- travelled Brit who has just departed his leading role in Aston Martin’s design team – a position in which he oversaw the styling of the Valkyrie among other headline-hitting machines – to join... Dacia. As career moves go, it’s up there with Jeremy Clarkson becoming a farmer or George W Bush taking up painting – not what you’d expect, perhaps. But look past the ‘Aston design boss in shock move to Dacia’ headline, and you’ll see there’s mainstream-sector form dotted throughout Nürnberger’s storied past.

“I worked on the Citroën C3 Picasso, some of the early work for the DS brand before it launched, the concept of the C-Cactus,” he tells Autocar, four days after getting his feet under the table at his new office. “I’ve done lots of things before. I’ve spent time at Land Rover, Ford, Lincoln in the US – so I’ve worked with a spectrum of brands.”

It’s still not exactly a logical progression, but even if it is a little hard to wrap your head around, the switch was nothing if not perfectly timed. Ex-AMG boss Tobias Moers is the twin-turbocharged V8-powered new broom sweeping the halls at Aston, and although there has been no suggestion he’s having a clear-out at an executive level, the recent departures of chassis-tuning legend Matt Becker, special vehicle boss David King and Nürnberger himself suggest the British brand is being radically overhauled top to bottom.

As, coincidentally, is Dacia. In fact, the Renault-owned value brand’s plans for a wide-reaching reinvention was a big part of the appeal for Nürnberger. “I had several opportunities but this was the one that really interested me because they are on that journey, and it wasn’t going to be going somewhere to repeat. It was something that was evolving and moving and had momentum in its trajectory.” So when Gilles Vidal – vice-president of design for the Renault Group, serving under Nürnberger’s ex-neighbour and long-time collaborator, Laurens van den Acker – rang to ask if Nürnberger would be interested in leading the Romanian brand’s visual reinvention, it was a no-brainer.

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Not that it will be an easy ride, of course. Designing Aston’s first SUV to please clients, critics and company bosses was always going to be a tough ask, but to sign off the designs of affordable, daily-driven models that will sell globally in the hundreds of thousands? “It is a little daunting,” he admits. “But it’s quite funny. You realise how you design (your methodology and thinking), you apply it whether it costs €15,000 or €150,000. The design thinking is the same.”

In another flourish of happenstance, Dacia is well under way with development work on its own crucial new SUV, the Bigster, which will spearhead the brand’s landmark entry into the fearsome C-SUV segment, taking on formidable rivals like the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Kodiaq. The production car is all but signed off, so Nürnberger’s work will revolve more around “the details, the execution and the quality” in the run-up to its launch, but it will still set the tone for his approach to injecting some visual flair into upcoming Dacia models. The cars will be different, to avoid what Nürnberger calls a “Russian doll” product line-up, but the core attributes of Dacia design will continue to differentiate each from its Renault (or even Lada) equivalent. “There’s a spirit of adventure, authenticity, simplicity, smart thinking. Value for money is more a brand thing, but it is also a way of thinking,” he says.

The Jogger, which shared a public debut stage with Nürnberger at the Munich motor show earlier this month, has been designed with a heavy focus on usability and functionality, but that’s not to say it lacks standout qualities. “The minute I saw [the Jogger], immediately I saw an outdoor feeling. You can imagine just throwing a bike in the back. And guess what? It’s also really good value for money,” he says, beaming.

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So is it fair to call Dacia a ‘cool brand’ now that it trades to such great effect on its utilitarian-chic ethos? “It is, yes, but it gets it through that honesty and authenticity in the way that a Swiss army knife is quite a cool thing; but why is it cool? Or any cool sportswear. It has it because it’s legitimate and has a reason to it. It’s not style for style’s sake. It’s style driven out of purpose,” Nürnberger hypothesises, echoing recent comments from Dacia CEO Denis Le Vot and product boss Andreea Guinea, who each emphasised that customers aren’t yet ready for expensive hybrid electrickery or tricky-to-use advanced driver aids.

A world away from Aston Martin, then, where Nürnberger must have spent hours agonising over aluminium vent controls and Alcantara-wrapped handbrake levers – but, true to form, he reckons the parallels between his previous and current roles go well beyond putting pen to paper.

“As a designer, you’re still looking for proportions, details, clever solutions. I think a good designer can apply themselves to almost any brand,” he says. “You become an expert in certain areas, for sure – for instance, if you understand the packaging of a front/mid-engined car very well. To give you an example, we did the Valkyrie and the DBX at the same time – two completely different packages – but it was actually helpful because they were at such different ends of the scale. To work on things that aren’t complementary or don’t appear complementary can be a benefit because youhave to try hard with fresh thinking because you haven’t done it before.”

Such a refreshingly varied and ambitious design strategy is sure to become invaluable to Dacia as it targets unprecedented growth and product line diversity. And who knows – maybe the next-generation Sandero will steal sales by virtue of its distant relationship with a bona fide British hypercar.

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Symanski 2 October 2021

Tobias Moers, runner up in the worst automotive CEO to Thierry Bollore, has the idea that Aston Martins should be as stiff as the can be, and with sharp instant responses.   A hardcore version of the hardest AMG Black cars.

 

Does this sound like an Aston Martin to you?   An unforgiving sports car or is Aston a GT car?   And not forgetting that even Ferrari have more GT cars in their lineup than sports.

 

As for design, would you hire anybody from Aston taking responsibility for their exterior looks?   Reichman should be sacked for producing duff car after duff car.   Cars that don't find the market that Aston needs to survive.   And Dacia are taking on one of the people behind those disasters?!?!   I only hope that it was Reichman who was holding his talents back, and that his work from before Aston was exemplary.

 

lee44 2 October 2021

Tobias strategy was to go after Porshe drivers who want a more involved drive with instant response which does require a compromise in other areas, ie the ride quality.  Was this a mistake on his part, time will tell. 

Paul Dalgarno 3 October 2021
Symanski wrote:

Tobias Moers, runner up in the worst automotive CEO to Thierry Bollore, has the idea that Aston Martins should be as stiff as the can be, and with sharp instant responses.   A hardcore version of the hardest AMG Black cars.

 

Does this sound like an Aston Martin to you?   An unforgiving sports car or is Aston a GT car?   And not forgetting that even Ferrari have more GT cars in their lineup than sports.

 

As for design, would you hire anybody from Aston taking responsibility for their exterior looks?   Reichman should be sacked for producing duff car after duff car.   Cars that don't find the market that Aston needs to survive.   And Dacia are taking on one of the people behind those disasters?!?!   I only hope that it was Reichman who was holding his talents back, and that his work from before Aston was exemplary.

 

 

Another relentlessly negative post. We get it, Aston Designer, BMW engines, blah, blah. 

Symanski 3 October 2021
Paul Dalgarno wrote:

Another relentlessly negative post. We get it, Aston Designer, BMW engines, blah, blah. 

 

Thank you.   It's good to know that people are learning about BMW's poor reliability, but it's not just their engines.