When I was a child, the times were different. Being ‘cool’ was a simpler, easier task. For me, as a young boy in the 90’s, you didn’t have a chance of being ‘cool’ unless you had a Beanie Baby collection. These stuffed animals—which is all they are—feature names and ‘editions’, as well as backstories, lending the things an air of collectability and exclusivity. Now, as I grew up, I realized that Beanie Babies were maybe not the coolest thing in the world, and eventually my collection got sold off at some flea market in the area to fund my next ‘cool’ thing I wanted. The point of this decidedly non-car related story? Times change, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the design trends of the automotive world.
While I am by no means a trend setter—I collected Beanie Babies for Pete’s sake—I do think I have a fairly good idea of what direction the automotive world will start heading in the immediate future. Some of these may be apparent, while others might be contentious, but below are three trends I think will soon experience an explosion in popularity:
Non-Red Brake Calipers
I know, I know, this one might sound silly, but hear me out. In the past decade, red-colored brake calipers have exploded in popularity, and where once they were strictly for performance cars, now your local Fiat dealer can spray your 500’s calipers red for the right price. While this has led to—in my opinion—generally better and more exciting-looking cars, it does lead to an unexpected problem: what do you do to set your performance car apart from the city cars now? While many high-performance automakers continue to use red, we are starting to see a brave few branch off, painting their calipers a different color. BMW has done this the longest, offering their M cars with blue calipers for a few years now, while companies like Ford and Subaru are only recently adopting the change for their halo-performance models.
Ford and Subaru also display another effect this trend will develop into: as the performance car gains in popularity, many automakers have several performance versions of the same model. For example, Subaru’s WRX line has both the WRX and the STi, while Ford’s Focus line has both an ST and RS line. To differentiate these performance models, sometimes the companies must get creative. For Ford and Subaru, the color of the brake caliper is one such way: ‘mainstream’ performance models get plain-Jane red, while the halo models get some sort of shocking or exciting coating.
It is this level of differentiation which leads me to believe more companies will begin adopting different colored brake calipers. In terms of cost and effort versus the return, not many modifications are as simple or cheap as a lick of paint on the calipers, meaning this trend can be adopted rather quickly.
Phones Influencing Car Design
This one has been happening for a while now, however I feel that the recent changes to the iPhone—the market driver—as well as general societal changes, will lead to customers phones playing a larger part in automotive design. As the iPhone has recently released a wireless charging option, I expect that more cars—as some already come equipped as such—will offer wireless charging capabilities.
I also expect that more companies will copy Honda’s new Accord Touring, and include a near-field communications chip (NFC) in their infotainment systems. With such a system, Android phones equipped with such a chip—which is most of them—merely need to tap their phone to the designated spot, and they will be bluetoothed to the car. As hands-free mobility becomes ever-more important, so too will this factor. Apple phones are equipped with the proper chip; however, Apple maintains direct control of the chip for their Apple Pay system.
Lastly, more budget companies will start to include optional built-in holders and clips for phones of different size, in place of or as well as an infotainment and navigation system. Why does a Mitsubishi Mirage need a screen or optional navigation system, when owners can instead opt for a quality, built-in clip or other adjustable slot on the dashboard? Using such a system also ensures that phones are not in use while you are driving, because they are part of the cars trim at that point. While this one may be a little far-fetched, I think it could certainly happen.
Everything is Luxury. Everything
This trend is a constant, as long as the car has existed: people of every economic level want the most ‘premium’ or luxury feel in their vehicle, while hopefully not paying for such a feel. While I can go on and on about how the rising average transaction cost for a new car shows people are paying for such a feeling, even the cheapest car in the States has many faux-luxury touches. Currently, I see the automotive market moving in three directions to achieve this luxury feel on most price levels; black C/D pillars, multi-color interiors, and busier front and rear ends.
The first of these—black C or D pillars—has been a rising trend over the last few years in the actual luxury car market, and is now starting to trickle down to the more consumer-oriented models. By painting the rear-most pillar black, the roof is lent a ‘floating’ look, which does look very good if pulled off properly. As cars get longer and more rounded—due to wind-aided computer designs—this tactic will also distract form the long, awkward lines of the future cars.
Improved manufacturing technologies is a direct contributing factor to the next two developments: multi-colored or exotic colored interiors and busier front and rear ends. More and more, budget-friendly cars are offering multiple interior options, rather than limiting customers to the economical black. The motivation for doing so is similar to the concept behind changing brake caliper color: it doesn’t cost much money or effort, and adds an increased air of uniqueness to the car. The most common employment of such a tactic in new cars is seat accents, such as the Veloster pictured below.
It is also not uncommon for automakers to now offer both a white and black interior option. In the coming years, I think more and more cars at all price ranges will start to adopt more colorful interior schemes, in a bid to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Lastly, a trend I am not too excited about, is the increase in ‘zazz’ on front and rear fasciae of cars. What I mean by this, is that the unadorned, understated bumpers of the early 2000’s are giving way to vented—fake or otherwise—molded, and sculpted front and rear ends. As part of this, rear bumpers are usually capped off by a number of shiny exhaust pipes, a departure from the hidden pipes of yesterday. These changes are due to a number of reasons. The increase in design flair is due to the increase ease of manufacturing the industry has undergone in the last few decades, as well as the new need to hide the large bumpers and body work required of modern safety tests. The increase in visible, shiny exhaust pipes—a trend which I believe will only grow—is down to what our culture wants.
What do you think? Am I totally wrong, and car trends will go another way, or did I just miss a few here and there? Let me know down below, and as always, hit the like button and remember to share it with your friends and family!
I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.