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GM, Clemson roll out Deep Orange concept for urban, young buyers

The concept car "5" is the fifth version from Clemson's Deep Orange project, which aims to harness engineering students' creativity to produce next-generation vehicles. Photo credit: HANNAH LUTZ

UPDATED: 4/22/15 9:55 am ET - adds designer's name

DETROIT -- General Motors and Clemson University students unveiled a vehicle Wednesday aimed at young, price-conscious consumers in big cities that takes the connected, digital car to a new level.

The Deep Orange 5 was designed by the Art Center College of Design student MinKi Chung and engineered by Clemson’s automotive engineering graduate students to appeal to young adults who will live in mega cities in 2020.

The Deep Orange 5, unveiled at GM’s headquarters here, “enables social networking and mobility to go hand-in-hand, ultimately forming an emotional connection between the user and vehicle,” Clemson University said in a statement.

The concept car is the fifth version from Clemson’s Deep Orange project, which aims to harness engineering students’ creativity to produce next-generation vehicles.

“Deep Orange 5 is about creating a better value proposition for young adults that have little money to spare, less interest in vehicle ownership than previous generations, yet need a personal mobility solution that aligns with their complex lifestyle,” Paul Venhovens, leader of the Deep Orange project, said in a statement. Venhovens also is the BMW endowed chair in automotive systems integration in Clemson’s automotive engineering department.

The Deep Orange 5 features engineering and design to appeal to younger buyers with an urban lifestyle:

  • Reconfigurable seating for activities beyond driving, such as working, relaxing and storing items.
  • A digital cockpit that displays unique content for the driver and passenger.
  • A color display on both front doors facing outward that allows the driver and passengers to project digital messages outside.
  • Double-hinged doors for comfortable entrance and exit of the vehicle in tight parking spaces and improved access for users with disabilities.
  • A two-piece rear hatch for easy access in tight parking spaces.
Photo credit: HANNAH LUTZ

“We were very impressed with their holistic approach and final result of this accelerated product development process,” said Janet Goings, associate director of research and development at GM.

"The students came together from a clean slate to come up with a physical product. It really sets them apart," she added. 

GM “asked us to work on some grand challenges,” said Suzanne Dickerson, director of international business development for Clemson’s automotive research department. “This vehicle is exciting and reflects a unique approach to targeting this hard-to-capture consumer segment” of Generation Y and Generation Z buyers.

Last year, for the fourth-generation Deep Orange vehicle, BMW worked with Clemson students to develop a vehicle capable of carrying potted orange trees in back without compromising the luxury interior, ride and performance of a BMW sports car.

The sixth and seventh versions are currently under development and are sponsored by Toyota and BMW.

Some students have left the program with full-time job offers from major automakers.

Rivkah Saldanha was the project manager for Deep Orange 5. After collaborating with GM for two years in developing the vehicle, she finished her master’s degree at Clemson and took on a full-time position at GM as ‎a compartment integration design engineer.

She said the integration required to develop the Deep Orange 5 has been beneficial in her new job. 

"The customer is always king, and sometimes we, as engineers, tend to forget that," she said. With the Deep Orange 5 "customers get something they want and need that caters to their lifestyles."

Saldanha and her 18-person team had a goal to get Generation Y and Generation Z to be more involved in renting, buying and sharing vehicles. The team wanted the concept car to create a vehicle-consumer relationship that is as strong as a smart phone-consumer relationship, she said.

Another student, Ashish Dubey, who worked on Deep Orange 4 with BMW, became a product design engineer at Chrysler after completing the project.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at -- Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hm_lutz

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