Staffel 4

Interior design for the future: “Which car you choose depends on how you feel inside it”

Interior design for the future: “Which car you choose depends on how you feel inside it”

Electrification, digitalization, and sustainability are also leaving their marks in the vehicle interior: The future trends in the automotive sector are accelerating the realignment in interior design. The IAA MOBILITY Visionary Club, on new luxury, old emotions, and heightened degrees of freedom.

Digital offerings, luxurious materials, comfortable seats – plenty is possible in the car interior. But how important is physical design in a digital world? What is the future expression of automotive luxury? And how will vehicle interiors change due to electrification and connectivity? With the transformation of the automotive industry, wholly new questions are also being asked of the interior design – and at the same time, entirely new possibilities are opening up.

The interior as stage

Take digitalization as an example: Connectivity massively changes how we use the interior in the car. That will not only come into play in the self-driving vehicle of the future, where even the driver becomes a passenger. It is already true today. The possibility of being connected at all times with everything that forms our digital identity has long been a requirement for all our means of transport. We are currently experiencing a turning-point in design, says Oliver Sieghart, Head of Interior Design at BMW, speaking at the IAA MOBILITY Visionary Club – moving towards a digital-first approach. Are spatial design, ergonomics and equipment therefore losing their importance? Not at all, says Sieghart. “Something new has to come out of physical and digital experiences.” He sees the interior as a stage for digital experiences. By that, he means: “We still need to design an interior in which people feel good.”

Diving into the digital experience

And that’s something which doesn’t necessary succeed through an excess of screens in front of, next to and behind the driver, but through a digital experience that fits into its environment, says Jeremy Offer, Senior Vice President and Chief Design Officer at Arrival, a manufacturer of fully-electric commercial vehicles. After displays in vehicle interiors became a trend in recent years and were seen as an indication of premium class, the challenge now is to integrate the person better into the digital offering in the vehicle, as Giles Taylor puts it. He is Vice President Design with the Chinese vehicle manufacturer FAW Group. “That is also a new task for design.”

Sustainability as the new luxury

Equally important is finding an answer to the question of how luxury is defined in the car interior of the future, alongside a seamless digital experience. “It will surely find expression partly in the sustainability of the materials we use,” Offer believes. To put it more simply: Less heavy, upholstered leather, more lighter materials, manufactured and processed in a new, more environmentally-friendly manner. In China, whilst the customers have a great love of innovations and the latest technology, harmony is also a key criterion for luxury in the automotive sector, says Taylor. “It is the designer’s job to create a feeling of relaxation. Getting from A to B is the reason why you get into a car at all. But the decision as to which car you choose for that depends on how you feel inside it.”

The paradigms of electromobility 

Electromobility, too, can also make a significant change in how vehicle interiors are designed. Currently, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what electromobility means for interior design, Offer believes. He says the industry is still building on old platforms designed for combustion engine vehicles: “Only if we design fresh, from the ground up, will we see what effects the architecture of electric vehicles can have on design.” One thing is for sure – without a complex engine block and transmission tunnel, the degrees of freedom for designing the interior expand, simply because more space is available.

However, design under the paradigms of electromobility also brings with it special challenges. “With electric vehicles, we are saying farewell to the engine, this emotional connection to the driving experience, which could lead to a more sterile experience”, says Offer. “As we do so, we need to ensure that we do not lose the poetry of this relationship we have with the vehicle.”

So preserve the emotion, define luxury sustainably, and balance out the physical ideal with the digital experience – interior design is faced with exciting tasks for the years ahead. As such, it will play an important role for the industry, says Sieghart, because “design will become even more important as a differentiating factor.”