Dynamic Interiors Executed with a focus on details, quality and targeting a specific consumer will be the hallmark of tomorrow's vehicles, leading automotive designers say.
Ben Jimenez, project chief designer-Calty Design Research Inc.,Design Network, calls the auto maker's future approach “Vibrant Clarity,” or “a rational and emotive appeal combined with customer focus to achieve customer satisfaction.”
Jimenez, speaking at the Ward's Auto Interiors Conference, points to the all-new Venza, a 5-passenger cross/utility vehicle launched late last year, as the firstproduct to fully capture the Vibrant Clarity approach.
Meant specifically for North America, the vehicle was designed and engineered almost entirely in the U.S., at locations in Kentucky and California.
But Jimenez says small interior details combine to make Venza the “reward” its buyers seek.
Designers optimized the spaciousness of the first row, creating a “60/60-zone” for each passenger. The front passengers each claim 60% of the available area, compared with 40/20/40 sharing of many vehicles.
Clear, purposeful instrumentation creates an environment of “advanced refinement,” he says. Also, specialized storage areas, such as a snug holder for a personal electronics device, convey the feeling of a “perfect fit,” while a map pocket on the passenger's side of the transmission tunnel provides extra knee room.
It's all about the details atLLC, as well, says Klaus Busse, director of the auto maker's advanced interior design studio. Chrysler's focus on interiors began in 2006, when present design chief Ralph Gilles established a dedicated studio for interiors where product programs are now done one at a time.
“We knew things could not go on like that,” Busse says of the past, pointing to an interior shot of the outdated '06 Dodge Ram pickup. “Things had to change.”
Busse then flashes a slide of the new-for-'09 Ram, a Ward's Interior of the Year winner as a popular-priced truck. “It says, ‘No, we haven't forgotten great design.’”
Busse says key developments in recent years include a revelation bymanagement that taking cost out of a vehicle program with each new model year degrades quality. Also, management decided to bring in key suppliers earlier.
For instance,Corp. delivers the instrument panel to the Ram, featuring the industry's first A-pillar to A-pillar molded seam with real stitching. Ward's judges cited the IP execution as a refined design element. Busse says Visteon joined the new Ram program earlier than ever.
Busse says the Chrysler 200C, an EV concept unveiled at the Detroit auto show this year, signals the future form vocabulary for the brand, as well as its commitment to interiors.
Busse says the 200C illustrates the sort of work an OEM can achieve when fear of insolvency focuses the mind. “This is the perfect time for creative minds.”
Moray Callum,Motor Co.'s new executive director of design for the Americas, says the auto maker talks quality in its studios, although not in the traditional context.
“Craftsmanship, material selection, fit and finish, those are the traditional aspects of quality,” Callum says. But at, he adds, the concept expands to “the quality of the drive, the experience.”
Callum says for some drivers, interiors have grown beyond a vehicle cabin and into something more like a family dining room, chat room or coffee house.
The key to perceived quality, he says, is to deliver on the promise of the brand. For example, the Ford Mustang cabin must capture performance and heritage.
Ergonomics play a major role. When Ford designers approach a new instrument panel, they start with the speedometer and fuel- and battery-level gauges.
They build from there, trying to seamlessly incorporate unique items such as the Ford Fusion hybrid's award-winning efficiency gauge, a vine that grows and dies with the driver's fuel economy.
Sustainability, safety and convenience affect quality, as well, because more and more consumers are willing to pay for ecologically sound materials, such as the soy-foam seats of the Mustang, and new technologies such as adaptive cruise control and cross-traffic alerts.
Callum traces Ford's recent strides to the '01 F-150 pickup and expects the Ford Fiesta coming to the U.S. next year to be a smash hit.