Luc Donckerwolke, boss of Seat design and before that the man behind Lamborghini, recently told me: “If we [designers] do our tasks, we can create a clean conscience for car buyers and change the way people live with cars.” 

This was in reply to a question about how he thinks car designers will have to react to environmental pressures.

Donckerwolke’s response was an unexpected one, as I have always assumed that engineering was the main answer to the environmental questions. Yet, when you think about what makes a car sell, the only conclusion is that Seat’s design guru is right. As he says, “Designers are the ambassadors of a new era – a way of living.”

Engineering clearly paves a way for the essential new fuel solutions, but cars sell mainly because they are a practical means of transport that has become essential to modern lifestyles.

Creating a totally eco-friendly, efficient method of propulsion will do little for the world’s motoring industry if it’s only available in something that looks like a G-Wiz.

It’s the belief of many, myself included, that the motoring masses won’t give up the comforts of a modern car for the sake of the environment – even if a minority will. So the real challenge is to create a solution that doesn’t compromise this. 

Is design the key? I’m convinced – this enlightenment came from the man that designed the Audi A2, after all, and that car was only flawed because it was ahead of its time.

The parting statement from Donckerwolke was: “You can only be happy about such pressure.”

I reckon he’s right. We should all be embracing the “new era,” and as long as we have this kind of foresight and energy behind the industry, there’s hope for us all.