Recently, I was asked why the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab is such an important event for Mopar. I think I have a pretty compelling answer for that.
For us designers, the Easter Jeep Safari serves two purposes. First, it’s a great venue to showcase our new ideas and see the reaction from enthusiasts and customers. It also serves as kind of our ‘gut’ check on design trends and things to think about for the following year.
The process to produce concept vehicles for Easter Jeep Safari starts well in advance. I work very closely with Mark Allen out of the Jeep studio. And, we use SEMA the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association show that happens in November, as kind of an internal deadline to quantify and qualify a lot of the trends we see and parts that are available for the EJS concepts.
After SEMA, we go into action conceptualizing, sketching, getting things confirmed and beginning the builds for the Easter Jeep Safari. But it’s not just a design thing. Engineering, planning and the brand guys also get very involved, because everybody brings something different to the party.
As designers, we’re more visual so we focus on the look and feel of the vehicles. Others members of the Mopar team focus on the Mopar parts and accessories to highlight in a concept, while others offer thoughts about current market trends and different ways owners are using their Jeep vehicles.
Coming up with fresh, new ideas may sound difficult, but it’s a bit easier than you’d think. Because each year we go for something different, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas that don’t make the cut.
Doesn’t mean they’re bad ideas. Maybe the time wasn’t right. But we’ll often go back and revisit them for future concepts.
Inspiration can also come from what’s going on in the aftermarket, or from enthusiast publications we keep in touch with. And sometimes it comes from the real-world experience of Mopar staff who drive Jeep SUVs and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. They come into work excited about an experience they’ve had or seen and ask if it can be incorporated into the product. We like to think of ourselves as not just spectators, but participants.
The design process is very flexible. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t, but we always have time to figure it out and fix it.
That’s what makes this job exciting, actually. The fact that we’re change agents. Our job is change. It’s what we live and breathe everyday.