The 2003 Detroit Auto Interiors Show Car interior suppliers now in the driver's seat
By Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News
* Office-style mesh seats without foam or coils
* Unusual cabin materials like Corian, bamboo, copper, ostrich leather/lycra, tortoise shell
* Patterned carpets
* Two-tone cockpits
* Lots of color
* Electro-luminescent ceiling panels
* Ceiling rail systems with snap-on modules
* Fancy floor mats with logos and embroidery that double as "welcome mats"
*Overstuffed bucket seats
* Gray/beige cabins
* Grainy plastic, wood trim
* Solid-color carpeting
* Traditional sunroofs
* Small overhead bins
* Plain floor mats
DETROIT -- When the redesigned 2004 Ford F150 pickup truck hits showrooms in July, buyers will have their choice of five unusual cabin treatments, including one that company insiders call "the image and power" package.
The macho interior on the high-end FX4 model includes a massive, bright metal-trimmed console and a huge floor-mounted shift lever that looks like it belongs on a bulldozer.
An overhead rail system with snap-in modules allows consumers to customize storage, from a first-aid kit to a DVD player.
The careful attention to interior detail and a wide range of cabin choices on what used to be a simple workhorse truck with a hose-out interior illustrate a dramatic shift at Ford Motor Co., which says it has tripled its investment in interior design and development in the past 18 months.
"Interiors are not the last frontier in automotive design," Ed Golden, design director of Ford Cars North America, said Tuesday during the opening of the three-day Detroit Auto Interiors Show in Cobo Center.
"They are a gold mine waiting to be tapped. Many designers are feeling the passion for turning the interior into something special."
CSM Worldwide, a Northville-based automotive forecasting company, said the interior-trim market in North America and Europe will grow to $22 billion a year by 2008, a 30-percent increase from $17 billion in 2003.
The annual interiors show, now in its fourth year, is part celebration -- with awards handed out for the best car and truck interiors of the year -- as well as a glimpse into the future of automotive interior design.
An online poll of 3,000 suppliers and manufacturers picked the Cadillac CTS, with its high-tech look, edgy shapes and American-Euro styling, as the 2003 Car Interior of the Year, beating out competitors like the BMW Z4, Saab 9-3, Infiniti G35 coupe and Honda Accord.
The Hummer H2, with its oversized accessories and over-the-top ruggedness, was selected as the 2003 Truck Interior of the Year, beating out competitors like the Volvo XC90, Lincoln Aviator, Nissan Murano and Honda Element.
Suppliers displaying new products on the show floor predict a jazzy new look for car interiors, often borrowing design cues from upscale homes, boats and offices.
At the DuPont booth, designers showed off a BMW dashboard stripped of its traditional wood. In its place was Corian material, which is usually used for kitchen counter tops.
Working with Savage, Md.-based automotive supplier XXL Innovations Inc., DuPont mixed the Corian with such unexpected touches as inlaid bamboo, woven fabric and copper to give the instrument panel a striking appearance.
Nearby, brightly patterned orange and black carpeting was displayed on a wall, along with ostrich leather combined with Lycra.
DuPont also showed off a "suspension seating chair," similar to furniture maker Herman Miller Inc.'s Aeron chair. The new automotive seat had a textured woven fabric and no foam or coils. It is waterproof and cooler than traditional seats. Designers say it may help keep drivers more alert than traditional seats.
At the Clariant booth, the Albion-based supplier displayed the Chrysler Pronto Spyder roadster concept, with its two-tone interior, sisal-like carpeting, diamond-plate-trimmed gauges and tortoiseshell steering wheel.
Roland Hardy, senior director of advanced design and global craftsmanship for auto supplier Collins & Aikman Corp., predicted that vehicles in the near future will have surprising touches, such as fabric on steering wheels and organic cabin materials such as the bright-blue mineral lapis lazuli.
"You may even see the use of white' or neutral odor in the cabin that the buyer can control," Hardy said.
There was some trepidation among the trend spotters.
William Fluharty, vice president of industrial design and market research at supplier Johnson Controls Inc., said the fancy new materials and personalized fashion statements are expensive.
"The big consumer complaint is we keep adding cost to the car," Fluharty said. "We are struggling with how much we should add to vehicles."
(Photo) Jazzy new look takes cues from upscale homes, boats, offices.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....