New cars loaded with gadgetry, high style


Staff member
Mar 2, 2004
Reaction score
Chicago, IL
[font=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][size=-2]David Coates / The Detroit News[/size][/font]​

[font=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][size=-1]Matt Popovich sits inside the Chrysler Crossfire at the 11th Annual Auto Interiors Show at Cobo Center in Detroit and checks out the car's interior finishing touches at the trade show that is not open to the public.[/size][/font]
2004 Auto Interiors Show

New cars loaded with gadgetry, high style

Cobo event has latest in car decor

By Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

[font=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][size=-2]David Coates / The Detroit News[/size][/font]​

[font=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][size=-1]Karen Deel, left, and Kim Evans examine the stretch and recover fabric at the Auto Interiors Show. The fabric is made for the second- and third-row seats of SUVs and minivans.[/size][/font]

What's new

Design trends at the auto interiors show:

* Asymmetrical overhead "mood" lighting.

* Micro-environments for each seat, with climate, sound and light controls.

* Touch screens with unusual icons, such as falling snow for the air conditioning that piles up the colder you set the temperature.

* Web cams to view back-seat passengers or monitor exterior security.

* Retractable steering wheels for better entry/exit.

* Textured trim in bold patterns.

Comment on this story
Send this story to a friend
Get Home Delivery


DETROIT — Juan Ramos runs his hands over a car seat imprinted with a loud jelly bean pattern. Nearby are seats with psychedelic rainbows and bold basket-weave prints.

“Do you want a picture of your pet on your seat?” asks Ramos, president of Michigan Industrial Trim, a Taylor automotive supplier. “Anything you can put on a computer screen — any kind of clip art — you can put on the seat of your car.

“I get goose pimples when I talk about this stuff.”

Ramos is a retired [url="javascript:companybox('FpA')"]Ford Motor[/url] Co., executive who, along with 120 other auto suppliers, is peddling his wares this week at the 11th annual Auto Interiors Show at Cobo Center.

The trade show, which is not open to the public, is an unusual mix of street bazaar, appliance superstore and introspective auto industry retreat that offers a glimpse of the future.

The trend is clear: Automotive interiors are no longer taking a back seat to exterior design as automakers struggle to distinguish their products in a crowded and competitive market.

“The exterior draws you to a car,” said Dave Leone, chief engineer for several Cadillac cars, including the XLR roadster and the CTS and STS sedans. “The interior cinches the deal.”

The XLR picked up an award at the show for Car Interior of the Year, while the truck award went to the Ford F-150 pickup. The winners were selected by about 5,000 auto executives who registered to attend the two-day event, which closes today.

The interiors show is not particularly notable for big unveilings of technology or complete redesigns of car and truck interiors. Rather, it is something of a showcase for automotive minutiae — a better fastener, a “smarter” fabric.

Amid the rows of products displays, suppliers tempt prospective customers with bolts of colorful fabrics, while built-in TVs blare from banks of car headrests on the sidelines.

In one example of creative promotion, a supplier hawking an alternative to bulky foam cushions in car seats offers show-goers a chance to try out a cushion filled with a blue gel called LiquiCell, then take the sample back to the office.

“Car interiors are like the kitchens of homes,” said John Calabrese, executive director of interior engineering for [url="javascript:companybox('GBM')"][url="javascript:companybox('GPM')"][url="javascript:companybox('XGM')"][url="javascript:companybox('GXM')"][url="javascript:companybox('RGM')"][url="javascript:companybox('GMW')"][url="javascript:companybox('HGM')"]General Motors Corp.[/url][/url][/url][/url][/url][/url][/url], in North America.

“The kitchen is the gathering place of the home. The cabin is the gathering place of the car. It’s something we have to pay strict attention to.”

Calabrese said a big interior trend is the use of more premium materials in entry-level vehicles and more aggressive use of leather in luxury vehicles.

At the booth of Austrian fabric supplier Vogl, executives were luring passers-by with bolts of buttery leather. The cost was twice the price of typical offerings, they said, but the leather absorbs sweat.

At the Invista Automotive booth, senior engineer Kim Evans demonstrated a piece of “stretch and recover” fabric that was introduced at the show. The fabric is made for the second- and third-row seats of SUVs and minivans.

“This fabric will pop back into place after you fold the seat up and down,” Evans said. “It will not bag or sag. It’s similar to that wonderful Lycra/spandex fabric you see in pants that eliminates pleating and bunching.”

The fabric has not yet debuted on a production vehicle.

Crowds made up mainly of automotive engineers also listened to experts critique specific vehicle interiors and discuss the flaws of luxury SUVs and the pros and cons of marketing to different generations.

Amy McFarren, a senior manager in consulting at J.D. Power and Associates, a global marketing information firm, complained about the audio system in the Volvo XC90 luxury SUV.

“When we evaluated it, it lost CDs and shut down on us,” McFarren said. “We couldn’t figure out how to make it play. It was clear this was going to be an issue. The lesson is that simple, intuitive executions please customers.”

Rob Huber, executive director of design at Johnson Controls Inc., urged attendees to think of car attributes that will have universal appeal to different generations.

A good case in point, he said, is the Honda Element, a vehicle designed to resemble a dormitory room and aimed at young consumers, but which is often purchased by mature buyers.

“The idea is to pick out attributes that apply across generations,” Huber said. “That’s more authentic and real instead of pandering to different generations.”

Anita Lienert is an auto critic for The Detroit News. She can be reached at

[font=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][size=-2]David Coates / The Detroit News[/size][/font]​

[font=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][size=-1]The VizuaLogic visor monitor systems provides a screen built into a vehicle's sun visor. The show combines an appliance superstore with a future design boutique.[/size][/font]
i love gadgets in cars, but i hate the wiring associated with the toys when something goes wrong.
Nice to see that the XLR was awarded the Best Interior of the year. It is easily one of the most high quality interiors that has ever been placed in an american car.

Cadillac seems to be sweeping that show. Last year, the CTS was awarded the best interior award.
the ol mark 8. You know what they are going to call it innovation in the bmw though. Forget the mark, no one remembers. Hah!!! we have the upper hand. Tomorrows interior in todays lincoln. Yes!

Members online

No members online now.