TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Three developing automotive trends – electric vehicles, self-driving autos and car sharing – will shape how future interiors look and enhance their marketplace importance, says Han Hendriks, chief technology officer at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors.

He calls EVs, autonomous cars and mobility services disruptors, but in the best sense, because of how they will benefit the automotive-interiors business.

“They are three trends that are so impactful, and we’re in the middle of the transition,” he says during a session entitled “Car of Tomorrow” at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars here.

As EV propulsion systems become more standardized, consumers will face fewer powertrain choices, he says. Consequently, more purchase decisions will center on interiors as a point of differentiation, not what’s under the hood.

In autonomous vehicles to come, people who were drivers become riders, opening up assorted opportunities for interior designers, Hendriks says. “We spend a lot of time trying to figure that out.”

Designers are contemplating ways to reconfigure space that can transform into various functions, such as an office or entertainment center, for what Hendriks calls “tasking or relaxing.”    

A Yanfeng mock-up of a self-driving car interior includes a retractable steering wheel, a front passenger seat that swivels 180 degrees and rear seats that fold away completely to open up space. (“Eighty percent of the time, the rear seats aren’t in use,” Hendriks says.)

Car sharing “makes all the sense in the world,” he says. “It’s economical and allows people to choose the vehicles they want.” It also is stirring interior  designers’ imaginations. 

Hendriks speaks of the need for more durable interiors because mobility-services vehicles “will have 4,000 users instead of four.” He foresees heavy use requiring an interior that cleans itself.

“Interiors will be the No.1 differentiator in the age of mobility services, because the interiors will influence why someone picks a particular brand.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com