It’s raining in Germany. I drove from Sarajevo to Mainz in a Škoda Enyaq IV 80x. About 1330 kilometers. Charging stops in total: only three times. There is a reason why I embarked on the long journey with this electrical marvel. The destination is the home of Omer Halilhodžić, one of the most important car designers of our time, and it was he who designed this first electric car from Škoda. For our interview, the designer from Mostar takes the wheel and shows me around his German home. During the interview, he fondly remembers the time when he designed this first electric car for Škoda.
Mirella Sidro (MS): Thank you very much for taking the time for the interview!
Omer Halilhodžić (OH): Thank you for coming. I am delighted to see you and that we have found each other in this car, which I have been working on for a very long time. Now we enjoy driving it through Germany.
MS: You are responsible for the design. You are also one of the most important car designers in the world. Is the Škoda Enyaq something special for you? After all, it is the first electric model that you have designed.
OH: Enyaq is the first to go into series production. Before that I worked in other car dealerships on other models. But you’re right that I worked on this car from the very beginning – from the first conceptual solutions right through to production. This applies to both models, the Enyaq and Enyaq Coupé. It was a long working process and it wasn’t always easy. Several proposals were submitted. In the end, there were two left to choose from, including mine, which ultimately won the competition.
MS: How does it feel to drive the Enyaq again after such a long time?
OH: I was pleasantly surprised! The feeling has been somewhat forgotten. Today I am busy with other projects. You have to know that we designers are already living far into the future. However, I have to say that this Enyaq is holding up really well! And I am very happy about that. At the moment I no longer work at Škoda. But it was a great honor and a great experience for me to work with this car brand.
“Škoda is one of the oldest campaigns in Europe and perhaps even the world”Omer Halilhodžić
However, I find it difficult to evaluate my work. Let other people do this who drive or buy this car. From the outside, I can say that I still like the way it looks. And the performance is also strong. I would say we have created something extraordinary!
MS: Have you always wanted to design an electric car? After all, it is something different from a combustion engine.
OH: I love design as a discipline because it is a creative process. Even if that is not easy. Rather a complex undertaking. I like it and it fulfills me. It has been my life choice since I was a student, and I still enjoy it today.
MS: I remember when Škoda Enyaq was presented to the public for the first time. It’s as if the design has been revolutionized …
OH: I wasn’t even able to design anything revolutionary because the platform limited me. However, my design won the competition. People misunderstand design. Design is a process in which creativity predominates in the idea development phase. But at the end of the day, it’s a job in the industry. You work for a large industrial company. Škoda is one of the oldest campaigns in Europe and perhaps even the world, so we have to create a product that sells. Something that people want to buy, in this case a car. All of this must be taken into account. As a designer, you need to be aware of all these factors. Being a designer means being creative, but also responsible. It’s a job that’s fun, but sometimes also frustrating.
I don’t work alone either. I can create a model as an idea, but it takes a whole team to realize this creation.
The most complex part of the project was making the car look the way my team and I had envisioned it. You can draw whatever you want. But what is technically possible depends on you, your performance and the way you work with your team.
MS: When Enyaq was presented to the public, the reaction was very positive. Which reaction did you like best?
OH: I was satisfied because the part of my work that I had invested years in was appreciated by customers because they liked it and still do.
In Germany, Škoda received the “Golden Steering Wheel” award for the Enyaq Coupé. That made me happy. But I can’t make a living from it. I have to keep going because you compete every day. We have new tasks and challenges. I created that, but I want to move forward and improve.
MS: What century are you living in today in terms of work?
OH: (laughter). Yes, I live in the future, but you have to do your daily work in the present.
I think about many things. I never limit myself. I am interested in many areas. As a designer, you need to have a wide range of interests. It’s good to know at least a little bit about everything. You need to educate yourself on every topic. Let’s say you’re working on a mirror that looks like a small thing to people. But there are many details that are unknown to me. I will therefore consult with experts in order to realize the project in the best possible way. I exchange experiences with them and even learn a lot of new things! You have to be open and absorb as much knowledge as possible. You never know whether you will need this knowledge for your creation one day.
“Škoda has a direct connection to the Celts”Omer Halilhodžić
MS: As a designer, you learn from the past and incorporate this knowledge into the future. I know that you love history. Can you find anything from the past in the Škoda Enyaq that has inspired you?
OH: The Celts, for example, were the first culture to develop metallurgy. Without this technology, we wouldn’t have a car today, as the bodywork is largely made of steel. I drew a shape for this car. However, the realization in physical three-dimensionality is due to the historical technique of the Celts. This car therefore also has a direct link to the Celts.
Now we drive electric cars. It is also interesting to note that the first cars were electric. Why have we decided to stop them and replace them with combustion engines? The economic factor is likely to have played a role. And now we are traveling back to the past idea due to the environmental factor.
MS: Which part of the car is most important to you as a designer?
OH: I do exterior design. This refers to everything that is visible from the outside. It is important to me that the car is recognizable and has character. Like us humans. I forget names, for example, but I do remember faces. I am visually strong. That’s why it was important to me that Škoda looks like Škoda. People should recognize it without seeing the logo.
MS: Is there any part of the design of the car that you hoped would be retained when it went into production?
OH: I worked on the Enyaq concept car. I wanted the concept car to be 90% ready for series production. We also worked on a realistic platform. For me, it is important that the shape of the car is timeless. Customers should also like it some time later. Just like me today.
“People thought it was strange that I switched from Ferrari to Škoda”Omer Halilhodžić
MS: How did you come to Škoda?
OH: I came at the invitation of the head designer. It was difficult for him to find designers, as Škoda did not have a good reputation at the time and even had a “cheap” image. I worked at Ferrari back then. People thought it was strange when I said I was switching from Ferrari to Škoda (laughs).
I remember arriving at Škoda, where the design headquarters are located, about 40 kilometers from Prague. It was raining and their roads were full of potholes. It didn’t look very inviting. At first glance, I wondered what I was even doing here! Now it’s completely different! A lot has changed in the last ten years, a lot has been modernized. That is amazing! And it was an honor to have worked with my team! Wonderful colleagues!
MS: What wisdom accompanies you on your path?
OH: I try to be who I am. I have my faults and virtues. I try to do my best, no matter what is going on around me. I try to be honest. I never do a job just to do it. When I’m working on something, I do my best. If I realize that I can’t do that, I won’t agree to the project. I don’t like to do half the work. But when I love something, I grab it and don’t let go.
Money isn’t that important to me because I know it doesn’t make me happy. Of course I have to earn something to have a roof over my head and something to eat. And I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me a few million. But here too, I would invest this money in something creative or to support others.
MS: Which trip would you most like to take with the Enyaq and why?
OH: This year to warmer places, because it rained a lot in Germany and the temperatures were quite low (laughs). I would take a road trip from Dalmatia via Greece to Turkey, for example.
I come from the south and was born in Mostar, where there is a lot of sun and warmth. I miss that in Germany. A loss in my current life. But I feel great everywhere. I’m not a nostalgic person. And these borders were invented by someone. I have worked all over the world and still do. For me, all people are equal.
We have an image of ourselves that we carry within us. Imagine what you are like. Other people think differently about you and it surprises you. You have to start thinking about yourself and working on yourself.
“Those who run away from life have already lost”Omer Halilhodžić
MS: What advice do you have for young people?
OH: Don’t be afraid and live. Because every life ends with death, regardless of whether you have lived it or not. Fear is good in a way. It is important that you know how to control this fear. You have to take a certain amount of risk in life. Even if you get in the car to drive, it is already a “risk”.
But you have to be prepared! If you want to drive a car, learn to drive first.
You can’t run away from life and you have to take risks. Because anyone who runs away from life has already lost.
As long as young people invest in knowledge, they will create something. There are setbacks, but you can’t give up. Get up and carry on.
MS: What can we expect from Omer in the future?
OH: I can’t talk about what I’m doing now. But the future is moving towards electric cars. In fact, it’s not just about the electric car itself, but also about infrastructure, digitalization, etc.
MS: So you’re staying in the automotive sector?
OH: Yes, because that’s where I have the most experience. It would be a shame not to pass on my knowledge to someone else. Young generations are different and inspire us. I today and the person who started this work decades ago are two completely different characters. Work has changed a lot and I often ask myself whether I really worked under such conditions to achieve what I am today? I therefore intend to continue on this path of mobility, on which I am and will continue to develop.
“Škoda a ‘cheap’ brand, but in a positive sense”Omer Halilhodžić
MS: How would you describe Škoda Enyaq in one sentence to someone who doesn’t know this car?
OH: You get a lot of car and a very good product for relatively little money. You get exactly what you asked for. People have always said that Škoda is a cheap brand, and that seems to be the case, but not in a negative sense. However, the Škoda brand was able to assert itself with its design and relatively low prices. Our task was to create a product that would be accepted worldwide. It must be suitable for young families, athletes and young people. This is exactly what we have achieved with our design. And people all over Europe love it. Like you!
The road trip was organized in cooperation with Škoda Bosnia-Herzegovina .