Franz von Holzhausen Speaks To The Design Of Tesla Model 3

Blue Tesla Model 3

JAN 24 2018 BY STEVEN LOVEDAY 18

Tesla Model 3 interview

Franz von Holzhausen followed the Tesla Model 3 with his design of the second-gen Tesla Roadster, Tesla Semi, and Tesla pickup truck.

Automobile Magazine interviews Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer, about the Tesla Model 3.

We haven’t shared a whole lot from Automobile Magazine when it comes to the electric vehicle segment, probably because they haven’t really taken much notice … until now that is.

It came as no surprise when some of our readers admitted a lack of familiarity with the esteemed publication. Automobile proved huge success in the world of print auto journalism. In terms of web-based following, it may be a bit of a different story. Nonetheless, regardless of how the message gets out, it’s outstanding journalism that has garnered a high level of esteem.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen – The Tesla Model 3 was his third design for the automaker

For these reasons, we can look at this as incredible news that a highly-respected, top-notch auto journal has chosen a battery-electric vehicle (and one from a “new”, small, “niche”, and some would surely say “struggling” automaker) as its Design of the Year award recipient.

To be honest, we weren’t super surprised to see this honor from Automobile. While you may not remember, a year ago, the publication was already touting the upcoming car before having even driven it.

Automobile points out a few details about Franz before diving into the interview. It’s important to know that despite his name, he’s American-born (Connecticut) and raised. The chief designer spent time at GM, VW, and Mazda, with the Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, and New Beetle Concept One on his short list. Franz (49) has two young children (3 and 5).

As of late, Franz has taken a bit more of a forefront role aside Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Some people suggest that when and if Musk decides to stand down from the top role at Tesla, von Holzhausen could become a key player or even lead the electric automaker.

Anyhow, let’s move on to the meat and potatoes of this story, shall we …

Though the interview was short and sweet, the chief designer shared some interesting information:

Automobile Magazine: What was the design brief for the Model 3?

Franz von Holzhausen: It was essentially customer-driven. They saw the Model S as a great car, but there was a desire for something 10 to 20 percent smaller, BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 size. We thought the $35,000 price point would work. We wanted five seats, more interior space, and to keep the fastback silhouette.

AM: What’s particularly special about the Model 3?

FVH: To keep the fastback profile, we eliminated the liftgate and used a normal trunklid. To keep a faster profile, we moved the structure ahead, to make sure the [head impact criteria] were all met. The big backlight is something we had experience with on the Model X windshield.

AM: When did you decide to totally eliminate the grille and front trim?

FVH: That was a long time coming. We made the early cars less distinct from rivals but slowly came to this solution of how to keep a premium sports feel friendlier and happier than the luxury S. We changed that car, too, modifying 200 to 300 parts when the S was restyled without the painted “shield.”

Follow the link below for more from Franz’ recent interview.

Source: Automobile

Categories: Tesla

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18 Comments on "Franz von Holzhausen Speaks To The Design Of Tesla Model 3"

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More cars should “totally eliminate the grille and front trim” and the rear window should have “fastback silhouette” like Franz spoke to … that’s what I look for to provide good aerodynamics.

Most cars have grilles because they allow airflow over the radiator. Functional

Agreed, the small intake at the bottom front is a permanent feature of electric cars for thermal management reasons.

I meant more ‘electric’ cars!

I had a ’91 Firebird Formula that had no grille … it used a lower baffle to deflect air up into the radiator … I loved that sleek (aerodynamic) nose on the Firebird 🙂

Boo for forsaking the immensely practical liftback-hatch design, like the S has. I don’t buy it that it wasn’t possible.
And no, don’t tell me “wait for the Model Y CUV”.
A CUV isn’t the answer. All CUVs have weirdo shapes intended to look like a SUV, i.o.w., a 3-year old boy’s fantasy of an earthmoving truck, and are never as space-efficient or aerodynamic as the normal hatch/sedan/shooting brake they’re based on.

Yeah, I said before the Model 3 was revealed that they would never forsake the successful design of the hatch on the S. Boy, was I wrong.

Hatchbacks suck.

Cutting five holes out of a tube is intrinsically less structurally sound than a three box design.

Your cars don’t have trunks or rear windows?

At least with a hatchback, that “fifth hole” serves two functions.

100% wrong. While it’s difficult to compare since it’s never the case that “all else being equal”, more boxes means more places where the boxes have to be attached together either directly or via beams. That means more of either fasteners or welds, either of which add risk points for rust, and more complexity ot the assembly process. If you want less attachment points, it means more beams, but that adds weight.
Tubes are stronger than boxes… That’s why tunnels are tube cross sections.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

“Automobile [magazine] distinguishes itself as more of a lifestyle magazine than the other automotive publications…

“Unlike most other automobile magazines, Automobile does not often do instrumented tests of cars or provide much technical data. Instead, the reviews of vehicles are subjective experiential reports with the cars in their naturally intended, real world environment.”

Gosh, how touchy-feely. I prefer facts and, so far as possible, objective opinions rather than subjective ones. I suspect most readers of automotive magazines do, too. No wonder I never heard of Automobile magazine until it was mentioned in an InsideEVs article just the other day.

This article calls Automobile “a highly-respected, top-notch auto journal”. I guess that’s one of those “subjective experiential reports”. 😉

If you have read the stats from one publication, it pretty much follows that you have read the stats from ALL publications. Once one article publishes the numbers, how many more times do you want to read about it?

You state you want to “objective opinions.” I have yet to read an objective opinion. (Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? I mean, I would like it if everyone considered my opinion objective. But opinions are by definition subjective.)

I like reading Car & Driver because they tend to be somewhat irreverent for an auto publication. But I was always impressed by the writing in Automobile.

The difference between Automobile and the other magazines is sort of like the difference between the nightly network news and 60 Minutes, or other news hours that give an in depth examination of a few stories. That may not be what you like, but it is nice to have an alternative to facts and figures sometimes.

It’s a matter of perspective I suppose. Although there are many publications competing to resell the same test data and advertising, Automobile was founded and staffed by revered writers and photographers who concentrated on the actual experience of driving interesting vehicles in the situations and locations appropriate to their purpose. Personally, I always appreciated the fact that they brought artistry and emotion to what is generally a dry and market driven enterprise. Facts (and now sadly, “alternative facts”) surround us. I’m confident that there remains a worthwhile market for the “touchy-feely” touches that remind us how great it is to be human.

Quoting Franz von Holzhausen from the linked article at the Automobile magazine website:

To keep a faster profile, we moved the structure ahead, to make sure the [head impact criteria] were all met. The big backlight is something we had experience with on the Model X windshield.

I confess that’s all Greek to me. I have no idea what he’s talking about. What structure? What “backlight”?

Franz should tell the truth. He copied the Kia Optima. Look at the truck on the Optima and the model 3, it’s the same.

Franz is very cool. He sent me a sketch of the model 3 and signed it. WHAT he did that for thousands of people who signed up for the model 3.
Oh well I thought I was with the Tesla in crowd for a few nano seconds. He’s still a great designer. CD is low. LOL

What was this? 3 minute interview???

Because I hold commenters here in high esteem, I was a bit disappointed to notice how many here were not aware of Automobile. The forum has been slow to develop, compared to other active auto and EV forums. What could work, I wonder, to bring more auto fans and racing fans, and perhaps a broader knowledge base, here?