Walter de' Silva, Audi chief designer: New rules refresh designer creativity.
"You kill a car's design to overcome this," said Herrmann, Ford's development director for lower-medium cars.
The result could be fewer sales in the world's No. 1 car market.
But design bosses from Renault and Audi disagree.
"We are taking it as an opportunity to rethink what we do. It is making us change our identity," said Patrick Le Quement, Renault senior vice president of corporate design.
Said Walter de' Silva, head of design for Audi, Seat and Lamborghini: "I'm speechless when I hear colleagues of mine say new pedestrian rules will kill creativity and good design.' They are not truly creative people, but just employees of a design center."
Automakers doing business in Europe have less than a year to meet phase one of the requirements, which takes effect October 1, 2005. They must comply with tougher rules five years later.
Pedestrian fatalities account for about 30 percent of all vehicle-related deaths in Europe, or 12,000 annual pedestrian deaths.
J Mays, Ford chief designer: [They] put a ball and chain around the designer's leg.
Said Martin Smith, executive director of design for Ford of Europe, "If you go for a passive solution, that means putting air under the sheet metal. That creates a different styling proposition the customer is not used to."
Smith warned that European cars with such pedestrian safety features would be difficult to sell in North America.
Additional problems Smith foresees for the customer include increased weight, which will result in higher fuel consumption, higher cost and reduced visibility.
"You have to sit higher, so the H point goes up, the head goes up, the roof goes up and the entire car becomes larger simply to fulfill this requirement," Smith said.
On the other side of the debate, Renault's Le Quement said he is tired of hearing people in the auto industry whine about the design changes forced on carmakers by EU politicians.
"It is up to us to adapt," he said. "And we've done it."
He points to the elegant Renault Fluence concept as an example of the design direction the carmaker is heading in to meet pedestrian safety requirements.
Other good examples of how carmakers aim to meet pending rules are the Audi A4 and A6.
De' Silva said that initially a number of cars will look the same, but with time, "the good designers will find bright solutions to add value due to the new rules."
He uses high-mounted rear brake lights as an example of how things can change for the better.
"The first applications were all the same and frankly ugly," de' Silva said. "Now designers have interpreted that detail in so many ways that you do not notice the high rear brake light is there until it lights.
"I think new rules refresh designer creativity, so they are more than welcome."
– Douglas A. Bolduc contributed