DuPont takes a holistic approach to automotive design Although many cars and sport/utility vehicles (SUVs) offer up enticing exteriors for potential buyers, bland interiors are a common problem.

Bucking the current blase beige binge, DuPont Automotive sees bold, exciting exterior colors and design cues creeping into vehicle interiors, making for a more holistic approach. It's already here on Chrysler's successful PT Cruiser, but look for it more as exterior designers take charge of trim and interior design choices.

DuPont recently unveiled Concept Vision, a design study of 10 new color schemes and materials that make use of new and existing technologies to combine exterior with interior styling.

"The world is changing, and you can no longer separate exterior color from the interior decoration of the materials from the textures," said Bill Kings, color marketing manager, DuPont Performance Coatings Europe.

Typically, DuPont is concerned more with engineering specifications and tolerances, but these concepts have an artistic slant. Concept Vision presents designs influenced by nature, industry, architecture and fashion.

"Color is very important in the automotive industry. It's one of the first two things you notice in a motor car: shape and color," said Mr. King.

Future brand distinction could be helped through the use of color. DuPont sees automakers using exterior colors to develop broader color palettes for interiors. These schemes will emphasize the image of the car through the exterior color, interior color, materials, textures and shapes.

As branding becomes more important to automakers, suppliers will have to tailor materials and designs to certain brands and vehicle types. Therefore, materials must be more flexible.

What can we expect from these future flexible materials?

* Inkjet printed fabrics - allows complex non-repeating patterns to be printed directly on materials. DuPont says there are still colorfastness problems, but they will be solved by the time automakers are ready to use it.

* Surlyn - a plastic used for golf ball coverings that can be used on the interior of the car. It has mold-in color properties, and therefore requires no painting. It can be finished in a range of colors and textures from matte to metallic.

* Hytrel - a polyester nylon mesh that can be used for seats. It needs no foam padding, so it takes up far less space and weighs very little. The material lends itself to complex patterns and a broad variety of colors.

Another coming trend incorporates materials, like granite or stone traditionally used elsewhere, in automobiles.

"We're showing for the first time...the use of Corian," said Larry Cole, executive product planning manager, interior systems, DuPont Automotive. "You're familiar with it for kitchens and bathrooms, but it can be used in so many different ways, and here it would be in lieu of wood trim. It's very cool, but it's warmer than many other materials such as stone or granite."

DuPont also is working on molded Corian, which would be thinner, lighter and more flexible than fabricated parts. Mr. Cole said Corian currently is in testing, and "by the time the automobile industry wants it, it will be ready."