by Neil Varlamoff



With a greater focus on design, creating a bold and unexpected look has become essential to attracting new buyers. No longer can cars be sold with the same basic surfaces that the public has seen for decades. Along with the advancement in stamping and molding technology, cars have increasingly more complex surfaces that engage buyers. Nothing is worse than a boring design that only delivers on the “expected”.



Next time you see a new vehicle, look closely at things like the grill design, the interior of a headlight, the lower fascia around exhaust pipes, or how different character lines converge on a hood. You will most likely find clever details that illustrate how car designers have really taken their time to sweat the details. Again, this is come to be expected in a new vehicle. Some of the new areas of focus have been the lower fascias, around the tail pipes and below the front grill. Without these details, the car looks cheap.



The rapid advancement in LED technology has spawned a rush to not only create a signature headlight shape, but create a signature lamp design or illumination pattern. Beautiful shapes and patterns are now possible since the constraints of a traditional bulb are a thing of the past. Once only seen on a high end luxury vehicle, LED head/tail lights are now the norm, and expected at all price levels.



Advancements in the understanding of aerodynamics have born the proliferation of the “aero bridge”. This is seen on performance cars as a way to reduce drag by allowing air to flow through cavities in the vehicles bodywork. It also creates a dramatic look which can’t be denied.



Along the same lines as details mattering, wheel design has become a focus for automakers as well. This was very evident by the number of imaginative designs that included the use of multiple materials/ finishes, colors, and use of negative space. They look great, just make sure you don’t think about how to wash them.




The playing field has never been more level in terms of the quality of product in each vehicle segment. Automakers need to stand out, and bold design is a means to do that. There is a war being waged right now between the luxury brands on who can have the most bold front fascia/grill, and it seems Lexus is in the lead. This will continue as more and more segments get crowded and automakers look to grab people’s attention. Boring equals death.



The difference between high horsepower tire-burners and gas misers has never been greater. Advancement in technology at both ends of the spectrum have allowed for this, and there is a foot race to one-up the competitors, further driving the divide. This, of course, is great for consumers who may want a 500+HP muscle car, a plug-in hybrid that averages over 100 MPG, or even a car that uses no gas at all.



Forget the 60’s and the muscle cars of yesteryear, those are milquetoast compared to today’s performance vehicles. Not only  can you buy a 707 HP Dodge Charger or a 650 HP Corvette, but they have the hardware to turn, stop, and sip gas (relatively speaking) like nothing else from even just a few short years ago. Tremendous power is coming in different forms - 550+HP twin turbo V6 (Ford GT), 640HP supercharged V8 (Cadillac CTS-V), 691HP dual electric motor (Tesla Model S P85+), and 550+HP turbo V6 hybrid (Acura NSX). Amazing.



Just four short years ago, the original plug-in vehicle debuted - the Chevy Volt. Now there is a new generation of the Volt along with a slew of competitors. It is hard to find a car maker that doesn’t have a plug-in of some sort, from an S Class Mercedes to a Smart car.



People who have predicted the demise of large trucks over the years will be sorely disappointed. Not only were there some high profile pick-up truck debuts like the Ford Raptor, Dodge Rebel, and Nissan Titan, but SUV’s have never been more prolific. Along with the ever expanding SUV line-up, new automakers like Bentley, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin are getting into the fray.



White has been the most popular car color in America for a few years now, and it was very evident from walking the floor at the Cobo Center. In the past, automakers showcased their performance and luxury vehicles in bold colors, but for 2015, white was everywhere, and on everything. Lincoln and Lexus showed virtually their entire line in white. White accents were plentiful in the interiors as well.




Color is now being used for exterior and interior accents on a large scale. Color was once only used on brake calipers of performance cars, now you will see bright  color adorned on the very high end luxury vehicle and the econobox alike.



From concept car to production, satin or matte paint has broken into the mainstream. The entire persona of the car seems to change with the low gloss level.



Using leather, or simulated leather, for interior panels is very popular right now. Because of that, utilizing high contrast stitching has become popular to highlight that, and to add an elevated aesthetic.



In the 80’s and early 90’s, full length light bars were popular and now they’re back! With advancements in LED lighting technology, light bars have a fresh and futuristic aesthetic to them.



Automakers continue to move away from the ultra high gloss wood (in most cases - plastic) which has a tendency to look cheap, even when it is not. The matte finish brings a real authenticity to the appearance of the wood and mirrors trends seen in home décor.



The only place you used to see suede or carbon fiber ten years ago, was in a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or the after-market. Today, carbon fiber and suede trim is everywhere. You will see suede on steering wheels and shift knobs, to door panel inserts and dash board covers. Carbon fiber is often used in place of plastic or wood trim. You know these materials are going mainstream when you see them in a Camry. Exposed carbon fiber can be seen on car exteriors as well, which can result in large up-charges for the buyer.