Audi, GM Car Interiors Win Awards

Audi Wants Its Rightful Share by TCC Team (3/21/2005)
Can new product, new attitude yield bigger numbers?

The future of cars will be shaped by two very distinctive trends with their own very distinctive directions, one of Audi AG’s top designers told the annual Automotive Interiors Conference inDetroit.

Roland Steinmann, executive design director at Audi AG’s studio in Southern California , said cars would continue to be shaped by the “Baby Boom” generation for the next 30 or 40 years.

The influence of the huge Baby Boom and its spending power will dictate a need for creature comfort and sophisticated technology that can help manage the car’s movement, Steinmann said during a panel discussion at the annual auto interiors show. At the same time, materials will have to be easily recycled.

“There will be changes in automotive form coupled with a handover of power by the driver,” Steinmann said. “As the Baby Boomers grow older, they will want more than functionality, they will prompt an explosion of niche models that express their individual preferences,” said Steinmann.

“The focus will shift from being the driver to being driven. Assistance system will help boost active driving safety and enhance driving convenience. Technology such lane departure warning systems, distance warning systems and video cameras or systems that assist in parking or even systems that park the car for you” will all become more important, Steinmann predicted.

Steinmann also noted that for carmakers, spending more on interiors has become a smart investment because of the increase in customer satisfaction. “We spend a lot more on the interior than we do on the exterior,” he added.

The baby bust

At the same time, Baby Boomers are demanding more advanced technology to help with their driving, others motorists will be looking for more basic vehicles.

Steinmann said the back-to-basics movement would lead to a “technological downscaling” to smaller, lighter vehicles that are aimed primarily at drivers who want to keep control of their automobiles. The target audience for the back-to-basic cars will be younger buyers who don’t want all the features and sophistication available on the cars designed for their parents or grandparents. However, the cars will also appeal to other motorists, who consider driving a leisure activity.

The “back to basics” approach will require interiors that are convenient for the driver, he added. “I get the feeling we’re overinformed,” added Steinmann during the panel discussion. Drivers want information only the most essential information presented to them, he suggested.

The simplified cars of the future will also have room for technologically advanced materials that can absorb perspiration or heat and cool a driver depending on the temperature outside the vehicle, Steinmann noted.

Better interiors win awards

Michael Sweets, general manager of engineering design at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., said that Toyota believes craftsmanship that eliminates gaps and enhances the fits and finishes, better materials and more comfortable seats will all be important elements of the best interiors in the future. Toyota is working at making sure the interior improves each time a vehicle is redesigned. The interiors of vehicles also have to be very flexible today, Sweets added. “Utility is a demand that cannot be overlooked,” added Sweets, who noted that sales by do-it-yourself chains such as Lowe’s and Home Depot continue to climb.

Meanwhile, eight different vehicles, including two from Audi and two from GM, walked away with honors during the sixth annual “Interior of the Year” awards competition. The Audi A4 and the Audi A6 were the media choice for the popular and premium-priced cars. The Honda Odyssey was the media choice for interior of the year in the popular priced truck, and Land Rover LR3 was the media choice in premium-priced truck category.

The 2005 “industry-choice” winners were the Ford Mustang in the popular-priced car category; the Cadillac STS in the premium-priced car category; the HUMMER H3 in the popular-priced truck category; and the Mercedes M-Class in the premium-priced truck category.

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