Q&A: MURAT GÜNAK

In career change, VW’s former design chief goes green

Swiss Mindset CEO Murat Günak said, “Today’s car industry is not always open to what is going on in society.”
After a career in the automotive industry that spanned more than two decades and senior design posts at Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Volkswagen, Murat Günak has found a new challenge. In August, the acclaimed Turkish-born designer became CEO of Swiss Mindset, a company he co-founded to develop a plug-in electric hybrid car.

The company, which has been funded with €250 million provided by investment banker Lorenzo Schmidt and his holding company, Spirit Avert, has developed a prototype for a lightweight, 2+2 coupe powered by a 70kW (94hp) electric motor, lithium ion batteries and a 23.5hp gasoline engine.

The company claims the car will travel 96km in pure-electric mode and 805km in tandem mode.

The 50-year-old Günak met with Automotive News Europe Staff Reporter Wim Oude Weernink at Swiss Mindset’s office near Lucerne, Switzerland, recently to discuss the project’s background and latest developments.

What made you decide to quit the conventional, established car industry?

Today’s car industry lives too much in its own world and is not always open to what is going on in society. The industry in particular over-emphasizes status, high performance and vehicle size. I recognize that I have been part of that world. But it was time for me to change because I saw that society has changed how it views cars and the environment.

But why join such a small firm?

Because it makes me independent of any single brand so that I can work unbiased on new concepts.

Why do you think the time has come for electric cars?

In 1974, after the first oil crisis, demand for eco-mobility mostly came from environmentalists. But that attitude has changed, and today’s demand for ultra-low emission cars also comes from mainstream buyers who understand the changing world. For them, a zero-emission car means status.

What kind of real market potential is there for zero-emission electric vehicles?

The demand is higher now than it’s ever been. Independent specialist firms like us understand this, and are better suited to address the market than traditional carmakers.

What makes your car, the Mindset Commuter, stand out?

Unlike most zero-emission vehicles that are presented either as concept studies or exotic sports cars, the Mindset Commuter is a realistic and very usable vehicle with sufficient performance, and with series-production in mind. We think we can sell 10,000 a year.

When do you hope to begin production?

We’ll launch our first running prototype this summer. We then have to find an automotive partner willing to begin producing our concept. We are in talks with some parties but I can’t reveal a name yet.

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