The fundamental value associated with mobility in a tool deeply ingrained within the fabric of daily life.
Key design team members reveal the thoughts and aspirations that drove the design of the New Civic.
-What do you mean by "keeping," was it not a given?
Sawai : Actually at the research stage, we were thinking of adopting a more conventional solution. The rear Magic Seats are both expensive and heavy in a European market where vehicle dynamics are more valued than typically Japanese versatility and functionality. We thought we could go for a simpler, more toned down solution.
Nishimoto : In the previous model, the rear Magic Seats have remained pretty much a hidden feature. We have not promoted this feature as much as we could have, so we thought customers may not know of its existence, let alone how to use it.
Sawai : We went to Europe to conduct a market research with the firm intention of replacing it with a simpler single fold down arrangement, should the results confirm it was not being used. So you can imagine our surprise when we discovered that customers had not only found out about it, but were even putting it to good use! Initially, we were taken quite aback as it went against what we were planning to do (laugh).
Nishimoto : One customer was member of a band and he seemed so happy when saying the Utility Mode(1) provided just the space he needed to fit his set of drums. We left this customer thinking he was probably a rare case only to discover that the next customer enjoyed paintings and used the Tall Mode(2) when on a buying spree at London galleries or at some flea market. He even revealed with a knowing smile that there was enough space for exactly 20 framed paintings.
It's not just the fact that the Magic Seats are put to good use. What is important is the process leading to that: the customer has a need; he or she finds a way to use the Magic Seats to suit, and enjoys the car just that little bit more. The Magic Seats are not the deciding factor in the purchase decision, but, as each owner finds his/her way of using them, a bond is created. During our visit in Europe, we were surprised by the number of customers having such stories to tell us. This is when we discovered that what we thought to be a slightly overbearing form of Japanese hospitality was just as appreciated by European customers.
Sawai : So much for thinking of getting rid of the Magic Seats (laugh)!
Nishimoto : Who in the development team would have ever thought of drum sets (laugh)!
Toriyama : This is exactly what I meant when I said that the car assumes its true role the more its features are used to the full. This is when the owner really takes ownership of the car.
There are no written rules limiting the way one can take advantage of the features available. Although it never even crossed our minds, why not drum sets or cases of wine on the way back from some fine vineyards? It is really up to each one's imagination … and lifestyle.
Nishimoto : More than just providing practicality and convenience in itself, it is all about bringing a smile on the user's face.
Toriyama : Yes.
Sawai : Absolutely. Civic is not just about going from one place to another. It is really about the car reaching into the very fabric of the owner's daily life as he or she finds ways of using it even us would have never dreamt of.
1 Utility Mode is the seat arrangement in which the rear seat backrests are folded down to create a flat luggage compartment floor.
2 Tall Mode is the seat arrangement in which the rear seat bases are folded upright to create a useful secondary load area especially suited for taller items between the front and rear seats.
Nishimoto : The development concept for the previous model was "Private Sports." We chose "private" over "personal" to emphasize the intimacy we wanted to create between the owner and his/her Civic. This emphasis on intimacy continues in the New Civic.
-What do you mean by intimacy?
Nishimoto : By that I mean a car that becomes an integral part of the owner's everyday life, a car that helps broaden the owner's horizon for a richer, fuller life.
-In other words, bringing together the aspirations of the owner and of the development team?
Nishimoto : That would sound a little pretentious. I can however say that during my visit to Europe, I have seen customers wholeheartedly embracing this "Private Sports" concept. We have developed the New Civic using customer feedback on what helped them create a bond with their car, in the hope of letting them establish an even stronger bond with the new model.
-Meeting with current customers must have been quite revealing.
Nishimoto : More than you think! I would have never imagined a 190cm-tall customer happily sitting behind the wheel of the previous model. His answer? "Oh, no problem. There is more than enough space." And with a smile at that. According to the measuring tape, there is just enough space. But what we had strived to create was a "feeling" of space starting with a roofline that does not impede on visibility even for tall drivers. This customer just showed our efforts had not been in vain.
Nakai : Most of our customers are also using the Magic Seats.
Nishimoto : And apparently quite happy to brag about it too (laugh).
Toriyama : Yes, so happy to be able to tell us how they are using the seat arrangement and how much they have been able to put into the car.
Nishimoto : It is comforting to see how the previous model has been able to transcend its role as a "tool" and how customers have been able to establish a bond with the car. Is this bond between car and driver part of Europe's automotive culture? Or is it something specific to the Civic? I wonder.