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Carbon Fiber Is Old News: These Materials Are the Next Frontier in Car Interiors

Car and Driver Logo By Steve Siler of Car and Driver | Slide 1 of 12: Changes are coming to automobiles. We’ve always done our best to report them as they’ve been announced and often prognosticate when they haven’t yet. But while many of the most reported-on changes fall into the sexy categories of exterior design, powertrain, and, yes, everything autonomous, what about changes that may involve the surfaces inside the car—you know, the stuff we actually touch? What’s in the future for interior materials—both the obvious, such as seat fabrics, and the not so obvious, like structural materials used to hold up a dashboard, if there even is a dashboard at all? And now that carbon-fiber trim has become ubiquitous, what’s the next fad likely to take hold? We did some research, chatted with automotive designers, and did a little of our own pontification to come up with the following predictions about the future of interior materials. Some we’ve never seen before, and others are familiar products used a bit differently. Worldwide imperatives are mandating sustainable materials, and customers are increasingly demanding them. Meanwhile, technology is empowering designers to come up with new uses for old materials, make fabrics and surfaces “smart,” and enable never-before-seen levels of customizability. If anything is certain, it’s this: In interior materials, as in every other subsystem on a vehicle, there are going to be substantial changes coming.

Carbon Fiber Is Old News: These Materials Are the Next Frontier in Car Interiors

Changes are coming to automobiles. We’ve always done our best to report them as they’ve been announced and often prognosticate when they haven’t yet. But while many of the most reported-on changes fall into the sexy categories of exterior design, powertrain, and, yes, everything autonomous, what about changes that may involve the surfaces inside the car—you know, the stuff we actually touch? What’s in the future for interior materials—both the obvious, such as seat fabrics, and the not so obvious, like structural materials used to hold up a dashboard, if there even is a dashboard at all? And now that carbon-fiber trim has become ubiquitous, what’s the next fad likely to take hold?

We did some research, chatted with automotive designers, and did a little of our own pontification to come up with the following predictions about the future of interior materials. Some we’ve never seen before, and others are familiar products used a bit differently. Worldwide imperatives are mandating sustainable materials, and customers are increasingly demanding them. Meanwhile, technology is empowering designers to come up with new uses for old materials, make fabrics and surfaces “smart,” and enable never-before-seen levels of customizability. If anything is certain, it’s this: In interior materials, as in every other subsystem on a vehicle, there are going to be substantial changes coming.

© Steve Siler

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