If you too associate ,born electric‘ with BMW’s i3 electric car, here’s the true story of an enterprise which the goodbrands institute had the pleasure to be associated with from the promising beginning to its very end.
In early summer 2007 my telephone rang, with Reuter from Zurich on the other side of the line asking about Murat Günak. The friendly little man had recently disappeared as former VP for design at Volkswagen and suddenly popped-up in Switzerland.
A curious being myself, few weeks later I was heading south to meet Mr. Günak at Villa Stutz, an intriguing lakeshore manor just off Lucerne.
Joining us was one of the most uniquely extravagant human beings I ever met. Fully dressed in white linen, his plain barefoot contrasting the wildest haircut, mindset president and main investor Lorenzo Schmid emerged in his gigantic stance from the nearby boathouse.
They both introduced me to the new car. Two high wheels, a tight slim body. The efficient sports car reinvented. Fully electric. Just a sketch, plain side view was enough for me to think: Genius. Then we talked. And ate. And drank wine.
That night I would not sleep.
Having the opportunity to work on a truly innovative project, free from the burdens of existing structures is quite unique and very unique when it comes to the automobile. This must be a once in a lifetime chance.
Soon I found myself sharing Allwinden, the home to Lorenzo Schmid. And what a place it was: a fin-de-siècle French style mansion in whose cosy hall Rachmaninoff used to play piano. The home of mindset was an incredibly inspiring place.
Having assumed responsibility for branding and communication, I reflected about the uniqueness of the setting. What car would one expect from a concrete grey place like Detroit? Immersed in bright green and deep blue, for sure mindset must be different.
Working out of the boathouse kitchen, Günak and the engineers were making the project happen. In Paris, designers were defining the style. Short before Christmas 2007, a first model of the car was ready, as was a mock up of the interior—handcrafted by French interior design masters Domeau & Perès.
To present both, I had huge glass boxes installed in Allwinden, overlooking the lake, guarded by mighty mountains. At night we would illuminate the boxes and sense the magic of it all. Guests were overwhelmed. I shall never forget Michael Mauer, head of design at Porsche, entering the garden after a storm to discover mindset underneath the most glamorous rainbow!
Mad mex & mad men
Huge car companies have a distinctive metallic smell. They are mostly loud and grey and dark. Some may be new and glam and clean like hospitals. Or they may be very old and cosy like an English pub—with wrenches instead of glassware.
Yet, no company looks like mindset looked. This was the cutting-edge sort of enterprise, whose assets were mostly immaterial. R&D and production were based on networking and outsourcing. There were no workshops and no metal, because neither was needed.
This made some people skeptical. When mad mex—for mindset experimental—was up and running, a blank naked prototype with an appalling aluminium body, we had guests arguing: How the hell can you claim access to future technology?
As early as 2007. Volkswagen said Lithium-Ion technology was not available yet, Toyota confirmed. And while Mrs. Merkel declared the need to invest money in doubtful research projects, newcomer Tesla was running on 6.000+ smartphone cells.
Just about then came little mindset. Concealed behind its shockproof keel: A piece of German engineering by the same folks who power nuclear submarines. Straight away from the most secret industry came a big, strong, powerful battery, managed by mindset with Swiss precision.
A true Electric Vehicle with optional serial hybrid range extender, mindset stood for a paradigm shift. Here we had future minded mobility packaged into a new breed of cars, engineered to reset driving quality and designed to deliver brandless distinction.
Early in Summer 2008, the electric-baby-blue full-scale model was finally ready. One would stare at its high-ride, streamlined body and really see the difference, or sit on its slim bench, in front of a minimalistic cockpit and really feel the difference.
In need of pictures to convey the novel sensation, we climbed the Grimsel and got close to the purest of all sources: icy water. It felt as if the whole energy contained in the huge rocks were feeding the lens.
Before the camera: the straightforwardness of the Mercedes Simplex, the sympathy of the Beetle, the spirituality of the DS, the sportiness of a Giulia TZ1, the distinction of the Bertone Marzal and the consistency of a Porsche 928—all mixed together into a wholly new thing.
No badge on the bonnet, Not even a Swiss cross. The image of mindset floated weightless on its extra-high wheels.
Unmistakeable in its brandlessness.
Alive and kicking
Short before Christmas 2008, the baby was alive and kicking: Born electric in Switzerland—my claim freely inspired by the Born to be Wild lyrics of the cult movie Easy Rider.
Taking the car to Berlin for a public test drive under icy snow may have seemed just a wild PR strategy as lending the only costly prototype to AutoBild for a racetrack test against a 911 Turbo. Luckily, mindset behaved properly and by the way, what’s life without risk?
From the very beginning, the project had been a high-risk venture, originally funded by proud and brave people. Like pioneers going west, people at mindset never faced a guaranteed future. Driving most mindsetters (albeit sadly not all them) were faith, dedication, and commitment.
As a reward, public attention was overwhelming, sympathy very high. In the end, lack of financing and unfortunate side effects killed mindset though. Why it went so, no one would never know exactly. Perhaps too new, too risky, too odd?
A ground braking project, mindset deserves a place among the great challenges—the Howard Hughes’s kind of things. Its design concept certainly inspired the automobile, pushed individual mobility forwards. On the road today, the mindset spirit is still alive and kicking:
Good to know that ,born electric‘ is here to stay.