BEIJING -- Olivier Boulay has been Mercedes' design guru in Asia for 15 years. First it was in Japan, and now he is among the first wave of western designers carving out a modern look for Chinese vehicles.
The Frenchman set up the company's styling studio in Yokohama in the mid-1990s. In 2008, global design boss Gorden Wagener sent him to Beijing to establish a Mercedes studio.
The Advanced Design Center of China opened in July, and one of the first fruits of its labor was shown at the Beijing auto show.
The Denza electric vehicle concept previews a domestic brand Mercedes has formed with the Chinese carmaker BYD.
The interior of the concept, a C-E class-sized, four-door, two-box sedan, provides luxury touches that could set the brand apart from other joint venture brands created at the insistence of the Chinese government
It's not a Mercedes, but Boulay says: "We want something more premium, or at least go in that direction."
At the car's international debut at the Beijing show last week, Boulay demonstrated his obsessive ways, well known in Asia's design community. When I walked up to the stand he was telling the model exactly how to seat herself in the back to show off the expansive and comfortable rear compartment.