Suzuki design chief discusses Tokyo e-Survivor SUV concept

But Akira Kamio offers no hints at future production

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Underdog Suzuki is one of the more mysterious Japanese brands. Rarely talked about, or indeed self-promoted, it quietly sold nearly 3 million vehicles worldwide in 2016 (alongside sister brand Maruti), and Suzuki has made some intriguingly original cars in recent years. Take the cute-but-tough Ignis city car SUV or the boxy-but-compact Hustler minivan, plus quite a few more.

Autoblog took the chance to catch up with the automaker's relatively new head of design, Akira Kamio, at the recent 2017 Tokyo Motor Show to discuss Suzuki latest e-Survivor SUV Concept, plus his personal inspirations.

The 54-year-old Kamio – whose design back catalog includes the concept and production Splash city car and second-generation Vitara small SUV, among others – says the beach-buggy-on-steroids show car "imagines a 2030 autonomous car with electric motors within each wheel on a ladder frame."

That's a long way out in conceptual terms, as some of the vehicle's futuristic details suggest – rim sections that change color from green to blue according to mode aren't strictly necessary – but there is solid functional thinking to some of its more outlandish elements. Case in point, the see-through doors – long a staple of concept-car design from Italian masters such as Giugiaro and others – have been rendered here in a forward-thinking way.

"When in autonomous mode the door glass goes opaque for privacy," Kamio said. "But when in off-road mode, the door glass automatically clears again so the driver can see the obstacles around it to help maneuver over rough terrain. This feature works on the model; it's a serious concept."

As to the most relevant element of the e-Survivor's design for nearer-term vehicles, Kamio points to the five vertical slots with the Suzuki "S" logo in front of the center slot. A familiar design cue of the classic Jimny SUV, here this graphic is illuminated and set behind a black-tinted perspex-like cover.

Kamio would not be drawn on when the next version of that long-running vehicle would arrive. But given that the third-generation version of the Jimny has been in production since 1998, the mark 4 is long overdue – even by the standards of Jimny's long manufacturing cycles – and is widely expected to arrive in 2018, taking proportional and design detail cues from the e-Survivor.

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Kamio definitely didn't want to divulge any more information about future Suzuki products, but he did concede to wishing that he had designed the very first Jimny – which dates to 1970 – along with having a great respect for the design of the Citroen DS, too.

In terms of other individual designers he admires, this golden-age era of car design also offers inspiration. He's a big fan of Italian heavyweight car designer Marcello Gandini, who was behind the legendary 1966 Lamborghini Miura supercar, 1970s Lancia Stratos and Lamborghini Countach, plus countless others.

"Any of his Lamborghinis" are perfect, according to Kamio.

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