Anybody can start sketching cars in their basement and call themselves a design studio. Of course it helps if you've got the clout and experience that comes with having steered an established coachbuilder like Pininfarina. But if you're going to make a dent in the increasingly troubled independent automotive design community, you're going to need a fancy facility to make it all happen. And that's just what Ken Okuyama has done.
The former Pininfarina chief stylist, since turned independent, has established an American arm to his expanding design enterprise, and they've set up shop at what used to be the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design studio (which in turn moved into Chrysler's former Pacifica Advanced Design Center in Carlsbad). The facility at 17742 Cowan Street in Irvine, California, (close to the line with Newport Beach) was purpose-built by Mercedes and boasts some 13,500 square feet of space right in the heart of Southern California's automotive design epicenter. While Okuyama himself will presumably continue to work from his headquarters in Italy, he's assembled a crackerjack team to lead the American studio, including Neil Brooker, Michael Castiglione and Stuart Macey – the team credited with such work as the Porsche Carrera GT and Dodge Challenger, designs which clearly speak for themselves. In addition to automotive design, the crew at Ken Okuyama Design USA will be working on furniture, eyewear and mass transit, among other things, as well as a custom coach-building operation to allow discerning (read: filthy rich) customers create their own one-of-a-kind rides. We'll expect to see more from the studio in the near future.