Gronenthal, a graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, is based out of the Volvo Design Concept Center in Camarillo, Calif., north of Los Angeles. The studio, which opened in 1989, is credited with the exterior design of the original XC90 SUV, among other designs, and works alongside Volvo design studios in China and Sweden.
Gronenthal, 41, spoke with Staff Reporter Jack Walsworth on the sidelines of CES. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: How big is the design team in California?
A: It’s about 20 people. We’re a small, focused studio. We’re an advanced concept studio. We focus on not just production vehicles that are going through the normal product cycle that we design all the time like we see here [points to EX90], but advanced programs that are sometimes decades down the road.
From where you stand in California, what does your role entail? Do you work in cadence with the locations in China and Sweden?
We’re a big team. Each teammate has their speciality. Us being the advanced studio, we do that advanced work but also production work. Robin Page is the global director of design based out of Sweden. Robin is my boss and we work on interior, exterior design, the same as Shanghai and Gothenburg. We’re in those competitions, we send designs over back and forth. We’ll get a brief and then I’ll work with them. I talk to them weekly. Every week, we have meetings and we go through our design process from the beginning sketch phase. We send them over. We have a conversation with the design leadership team in Sweden and choose designs to move forward.
How much design comes from the U.S. location as opposed to the other two locations?
It depends. Automotive design is primarily based off competition.