Exploring the future trends in automotive interior design

Exploring the future trends in automotive interior design

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January 14th, 2020

To inspire automotive OEMs, manufacturers, and industry experts, Stahl Design Studio® is releasing its latest collection of future trend forecasts. The collection, titled Automotive Design Inspiration 2020, captures the latest developments that are transforming automotive interiors. Caroline Hartmann, Design Manager Mobility, captures these latest trends, creating a vital tool for the automotive industry. 


Leading the way in a transforming mobility industry

Stahl is a leading company in specialty chemistry for coatings, processing and treatment of a variety of materials, with a long heritage of surface expertise in the automotive industry. As a reliable partner for the industry, Stahl is invested in meeting the needs of its clients today and tomorrow. Not just with innovative technologies, but also with inspiration and insights on future developments and trends. The mobility team of Stahl Design Studio® captures these trends in biennial collections as a support tool for automotive designers. Caroline Hartmann, as team manager, is responsible for these collections and shares how her team operates.


What is the working process like for the Stahl Design Studio®? 
“Together with the technicians, I gather information on color, texture, effects, and general trends that we foresee as influential in the future. To collect this trend information, we rely on a variety of information sources. For example, I’m a member of the International Color & Marketing Group to discuss tomorrow’s colors with experts from around the world. I travel a lot globally and visit several fairs such as the IAA, Geneva Automobile Salon, the Milan Design Week and the Premiere Vision in Paris. I do reports, which I share with the team. Furthermore, I do a lot of research through the Internet, online trend information sources and social media. In the end, all information is filtered and reduced to the essence to tell a story, with the design inspiration trend collection, to inspire our customers.”


Sustainability has been a megatrend affecting almost every industry. How do you incorporate this into the collection and work of the Stahl Design Studio® and what shifts are you seeing here?
“Sustainability is a very important pillar in what we do and our customers expect us to be very active in this area. We have a lot of activities going on in our R&D department, and all other areas, and have appointed Michael Costello as Director of Sustainability to emphasize the importance of this topic for Stahl. He is involved in a lot of activities all over the world, such as the Ganges pollution reduction project. As soon as Stahl develops something new, for example a greener finishing solution, we are informed and use the new technology in our collections to present our newest developments and their design potential to our customers.”


The automotive industry has been affected by various megatrends in the past few years. Which do you see emerging in the near future?
“With the new Rinspeed metroSNAP concept car, we show some of the central tendencies for the future: shared mobility, automated driving, and sustainable design. A novelty in this car is the airplane seats, which serve to demonstrate the changing role of seating that comes with shared mobility. Cars will be used more like a fleet, similar to mass transportation by airplanes. This requires interior material coatings that are very resistant to dirt, stains, and damage, but also have a luxurious appearance. Stahl has perfectly-fitting solutions to meet this requirement.”


When you create a trend collection, how do you distill all the trends you find into concrete directions to make them accessible for clients?
“We try, in our trend collections, to give a wide overview of inspirations and trends. This collection is shown globally and provides ideas for each client to choose from as what best suits his or her requirements. Some might prefer natural and pure designs, whereas others love strong effects and color statements, technical textures or smart surfaces. We use a traffic light system to categorize the articles in our collections. A red traffic light indicates articles that can be used for concept cars or advanced projects but are not yet ready for mass production. These are in the development stage, in which we try to innovate with new, advanced technologies. Green traffic lights show articles ready for production and a yellow traffic light tells you an article is nearly ready for production, but it may take some time to make it feasible.”


Which further key trends are you seeing for the automotive industry?
“The idea of a car interior as a third living space, a comfortable environment to reside in with a lounge feeling, is an important trend. It will drive demand for more natural and luxurious materials, but also sustainable options. A vintage look, for example, will become more popular. At the same time, emotions play a huge part in how we experience car interiors. Feeling and touch are the keywords here, for which Stahl offers a variety of surface solutions. As technology advances, smart surfaces will also offer more convenience, which is something our R&D team is eagerly working on.”


How will these trends affect the automotive industry? What focus areas will we see emerge in production and product properties?
“More and more, the industry looks to the future, and new sustainable materials are developed and studied, such as those made with eucalyptus or pineapple fibers. Stahl is supporting these innovative material options by working with our customers and applying our newest coating systems.”


What else is on the horizon for car interiors?
“The use of leather in the car is being questioned. Tesla moved away from leather in the car interior and Land Rover is opting for other materials. The environment, animal welfare, and sustainability are important issues for the leather industry and there are a lot of initiatives to make the process more transparent. One example is One 4 Leather.”

“Stahl is also developing sustainable solutions for leather tanning and finishing. Leather is still an important material due to its natural qualities and durability, but there are a lot of misunderstandings about its origin. A lot of people don’t know that no cow is killed for its hide, but that all leather is a by-product from the meat industry.”


Which services can Stahl Design Studio® provide for automotive producers?
“Stahl has Centers of Excellence all over the world where we can develop, test and produce what our customer requires. And with our trend collections, we provide design inspiration and insights to help our customers stay ahead in a competitive market.”


Benefits from working with Stahl Design Studio®

For automotive OEMs and manufacturers, Stahl Design Studio® is ready to support your efforts. Offering knowledge of cutting-edge interior technologies and insights on the latest developments in automotive interiors, we continuously push for new innovation. Interested in our latest collection or want to discover what Stahl Design Studio® can do for you? Get in touch with our team.

Stahl Design Studio® and the Rinspeed metroSNAP
Partnerships are very important for Stahl, which is why we have been working closely with Rinspeed on developing future concept cars and their interiors. Stahl Design Studio® was part of the interior development team of the latest innovative Rinspeed metroSNAP. Matching the trend of the interior as a third living space, they added a twist of comfort and customization to the interior with a vintage pull-up effect – a premium in mobility, based on technologies familiar in fashion and interior design. Meeting the need for an emotional response with tactile properties, our PolyMatte® coating was applied to the surfaces for that unique soft touch. An innovative bio-textile with Stahl coating was added, completing the experience with sustainable, new materials and completing the various future trends captured in this concept car.

Are you looking for more information?

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Exploring the future trends in automotive interior design
Alexander Schieke
Global Market Manager - Mobility