Jason Battersby on Breaking Into Car Design as a Canadian

If you fancy yourself a fashion designer, you can create your own label with minimal investment and overhead. Finding success is another story, of course, but at least the materials and tools of the trade are relatively accessible. That’s not the case if you’re a budding young car designer. Making a car requires a factory, heavy machinery, a regulatory compliance team, and on and on.

Starting your own label is out of the question. “It’s exactly like trying to make it into the NHL or the NBA,” says Jason Battersby, a designer at Audi and one of few Canadians who has made it to the top of the car design field. “I was drawing cars as early as four or five years old. My parents still have all the sketches,” he laughs. His father’s classic 1965 AMC Rambler American and movies like Star Wars and the Michael Keaton–era Batmobile are responsible for Battersby’s early automotive obsession.

Although Battersby grew up in Etobicoke, he realized he had to leave Canada to break into the industry. These days, he lives in Munich, where he works on Audi’s exterior design team. (There aren’t any major car design postings in Canada.) In fact, it was Battersby who penned last year’s stunning Audi Grandsphere concept, which is both a glimpse at an upcoming product and an early look at the brand’s vision for an electric future. And, well, we love it.

“We’re really trying to communicate that less is more,” explains Battersby. “We want to try to reduce the lines and let the volumes on the car do a lot of the talking.” It’s replete with clever details, like a stunning crease along the side windows that allows for a large, airy cabin while still tricking the eye into thinking the car is even lower and lither than it is. The Grandsphere bucks the trend toward busy, aggressive shapes and instead reimagines the flagship luxury sedan as an elegant and mult-ifunctional space.

The concept is so compelling that it’s hard to believe this is Battersby’s first (public) concept car for Audi. Watch this space, because it probably won’t be the last.

Audi’s Spheres

A triptych vision of the brand’s electric future The old car design rule books have been ripped up by electric cars. “[They’re] changing everything,” Battersby says. Today, car designers have more freedom than ever, as recently evidenced by Audi’s triptych of radical all-electric “sphere” concepts.

The Skysphere

audi skysphere

This was the first debut, and also the most unusual. The entire front end of the car can stretch by 25 cm. When extended, the car’s steering wheel and pedals disappear, giving occupants room to stretch out and relax while the car drives autonomously. When you want to drive the old-fashioned way, the whole car shrinks, transforming into a potent 623 horsepower rear-drive sports car.

The Grandsphere

Audi Grandsphere Concept

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Audi Grandsphere Concept

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Audi Grandsphere Concept

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Audi Grandsphere Concept

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Audi Grandsphere Concept

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Audi Grandsphere Concept

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Audi Grandsphere Concept

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It was designed, Battersby explains, from the inside out. The team started with an interior volume and a concept for a cabin that was a cross between a car, an office, and a living room. Audi doesn’t do frivolous, unrealistic concepts, so there’s a good chance the Grandsphere could eventually become the company’s next-generation flagship sedan.

The Urbansphere

Audi Urbansphere

Non-stop rush hour ensures that driving in any of the world’s largest cities is awful. Audi’s Urbansphere, however, would like to change that. It was designed with direct input from Audi customers in China. The minivan-like shape prioritizes rear-seat passengers, offering a huge space that can be configured on the fly for work, entertainment, or a simple moment of peace amid the hustle and bustle of a megacity.