NAIAS, Detroit Auto Show, Tactile, CMF, Transportation

Best in Show

January 20, 2015

This month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit isn’t just for motorheads—it also provides plenty of inspiration for designers who look to the automotive world for trends in colors, materials and finishes. A few of our industrial designers attended the 2015 show and shared their observations.

First, satin/matte paint is back again (see above). It seemed like most manufacturers were showing at least one car in a satin finish, and they all drew a lot of hands-on attention. This year, wheels were in polished metal—not chrome—which felt both fresh and futuristic. It made cars look like they were concepts, even if they weren’t, and the polished trend showed up everywhere.

Every “performance” car seemed to use exposed carbon fiber on interiors, exteriors, and everywhere else. Even if it wasn’t exposed, as expected, carbon fiber was a big part of the build story for the performance cars. The Ford GT was a great example: Their use of carbon fiber looked integrated into the design, with a unique matte gray finish, and completely necessary to the overall visual effect.

A few more observations from an exciting show:

  • The majority of personality of the cars was expressed in the headlights and taillights this year (though Audi kicked this off a few years ago). A lot of design attention was on micro details you might only see if you were crouched down inspecting the headlights.
  • Accent stitching was everywhere, especially on high performance cars.
  • Matte black racing stripes and decals were prevalent, particularly among American muscle cars.
  • BMW took some interesting CMF risks with their electric cars. They mixed several different textures, including some raw materials, and the result worked pretty well.
    Ford’s performance line featured a unique blue (shifting from green to purple), ceramic white accents and matte black/medium gray striping and accents—very cohesive.