Mark Fetherston (35) earned his graduate degree in Transport Design at Coventry University in 1999. Since then he has worked at Mercedes-Benz, most recently on the design of the SLS AMG super sports car.
Mr Fetherston, did you have to overcome particularly great resistance in the company in order to implement series production of the expressive, emotional design of the new A-Class, which does break with some preconcepts towards the brand?
Fetherston: to be quite honest – at first I wouldn't have imagined that at Mercedes we would dare to build such a car. But the Board gave us wide-ranging freedom in respect of the design of the A-Class. Indeed, they even encouraged us to be more progressive.
If you are so clearly breaking new ground – what is it that makes this new A-Class a true Mercedes, then?
Fetherston: the sculptural quality of the A-Class's form is typically Mercedes. This traditionally distinguishes Mercedes-Benz from other brands. We made the A-Class sculpture in clay by hand – you can't do this on the computer. Look for instance at the muscular shape of the shoulder above the rear axle. The character lines, in particular on the vehicle sides lend this sculpture structure and terseness. The Dropping Line is an elegant link to the Mercedes heritage, the high side sill line provides dynamism. The A-Class is a clear statement of the dynamism of the Mercedes-Benz brand.
Most recently you designed the modern SLS AMG gullwing. What is more difficult to design – a supersports car or a compact-class Mercedes?
Fetherston: in terms of dynamics, a super sports car is easier to design – because its proportions are intrinsically dynamic. But that is precisely why the challenge of implementing the sporty dynamics of Mercedes-Benz in the compact class was such fun.
And apart from the SLS super sports car, what else served as inspiration in the first design phase?
Fetherston: Nature itself is a very important source of inspiration; take for instance the way the wind sculpts sand into sand dunes – magnificent. One can also observe beautiful shapes in winter landscapes. I love aircraft, too. One of the greatest designs of all times is the Concorde – sheer aerodynamics. And even though it may seem a bit like a cliché – when you see the A-Class from the front, you can be reminded of a wild cat, a lion or a cheetah. Aggressive and sleek.
We thought of another likeness when we saw the A-Class for the first time: in the compact-car segment, the new A-Class is like the face in the crowd...
Fetherston (laughs): Yes, no other car is so progressive in this vehicle class. The A-Class puts an end to boredom in this segment.