Volvo designer achieves rare feat with XC40

Kettle says his XC40 drawing succeeded because he didn't create a scaled-down version of Volvo's bigger SUVs.
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Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.
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With the XC40 Volvo achieved a rare feat because the SUV's look is the same as the day it was first drawn.

“We were convinced we had something in our hands with this car,” Volvo Chief Design Officer Thomas Ingenlath said of the day four years ago he saw that early image of the car.

“We took it from a tiny sketch to this,” he added at a press event ahead of the compact SUV’s debut today.

That sketch came from Ian Kettle, a British exterior designer and graduate of the Royal College of Art in London. Kettle, who was 26 when he produced that first sketch, told me that his creation succeeded because, unlike the eight other choices presented by his colleagues that day, he didn’t make a scaled-down version of the XC60 and XC90. He did this because he knew that it would ride on a completely different platform.

“It is more like a cousin than a brother, meaning it has the same DNA but it’s its own person,” Kettle said.

To him, the design represents a “tough little robot,” largely because when he penned the original drawing it coincided with a period when he was being inspired by science fiction.

In an era when an original sketch so seldom survives all the critiques that take place before the design is frozen, Ingenlath is proud that Kettle’s creation is an exception.

“It’s not watered down and driven into mediocrity by clinics and marketing impulses,” Ingenlath said. “This is the car we wanted to do.”

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at

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