SEMA eNews Vol. 10, No. 27, July 5, 2007

TOP DESIGN TRENDS

According to a story published by ForbesAuto.com, there are 10 styling trends that are dominating the future of vehicle design. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that many of these styling trends are the result of innovations spawned in the performance parts and accessories industry.

1. Higher Beltlines

The vehicle beltline is a critical part of the look of a car—loosely defined, the beltline of a vehicle splits the windows from the lower body. Beltlines have been creeping higher and windows becoming shorter lately. Some have attributed this trend to the vertical styling of the Cadillac. Just look at the Chrysler 300 to see what we mean. For some time we have seen ground effects kits that visually elevated the beltline of production vehicles.

  
Chrysler 300

2. Larger Grilles

Since the early ’90s, vehicle grilles have been getting bigger. Some automakers are using the grille to make a brand statement, while others are accommodating the larger engines that demand more air. The performance parts and accessories industry has been designing custom grilles for cars and trucks for decades. In many cases the custom grilles may not have been larger than the production items they replaced, but they gave the appearance of being bigger.

 
Lincoln MKR
 
3. Aggressive 'Faces'

Designers often call the front of a vehicle the "face." When we think back to the musclecar days of the ’60s and early ’70s, we remember car faces that were really aggressive. For example, who can forget the look of the ’69 Super Bee or the ’73 Firebird. Then, as styling went more “aerodynamic,” in many cases it also became rather blah. Now we are seeing designers go back to much less bland approaches to their styling.


Hyundai Hellion
 
4. Hardtop Convertibles

Once available only in luxury class vehicles, full convertible hardtops that cleverly fold away are now reaching the mass market. Now, Volkswagen and other automakers with more humble roots are offering the option.


Volkswagen Eos
 
5. Elaborate Sunroofs

Automakers are coming up with all sorts of new tricks for opening up the roof to the sky, seeking more light and a sense of openness, especially for backseat passengers. Cadillac's panoramic Ultra-View sunroof, available on the SRX, is one example. It will be available on the all-new 2008 CTS this fall. "With panoramic roofs, you get a feeling of more comfort and room," says Ford designer Pat Schiavone.


Chevy Volt
 
6. Headlights and Taillights as Jewelry

Designers call headlight and taillight assemblies the "jewelry" of the vehicle, and they work to utilize new technology to create new eye-catching designs. For too many years the headlight was just a sealed beam formed into a small number of shapes, and taillights were thought of strictly as functional. The performance parts and accessories industry has been inclined to play with the headlight and taillight assemblies of vehicles. In the early days, it was a matter of moving them from one make/model of vehicle to another. More recently, the industry began creating new effects, such as the “euro-style" taillight assemblies.


Mazda Nguya
 
7. Larger Wheels

There is no doubt that the performance parts and accessories industry is the birthplace of custom wheels. Every year the SEMA Show features an array of wheels larger than the ones that were on display the year before. Car companies have realized that larger wheels help to sell cars and light trucks, so they have jumped on the band wagon.


Acura Sports Car
 
8. New Paints

Since the earliest days of the auto industry, car companies have always been conservative when it came to applying colors to its vehicles. It was left to the customizers to come up with exotic colors and vehicle painting schemes. Now technology is allowing automakers to get into the game. DuPont claims to have perfected matte paints that are consistent. You will also notice the “metalflake” painted vehicles coming off the assembly lines.


Nissan Bevel

9. Interior Lighting

Automakers have figured out that the interior is just as important as the rest of the vehicle. After all, consumers spend a great deal of time in their cars and trucks today. The restyling industry has been adding accent lights to the interiors of vehicles for years, and now it is being done by the automakers themselves.

 
Ford Airstream

10. Expressively Small

With the success of MINI and Scion, other manufacturers are moving to offer smaller, less-expensive cars.  They have learned lessons from and are applying cues they have seen in the compact-performance market over the past 10 years.


Toyota FT-HS

Source: ForbesAutos.com, SEMA Research & Information Center