To paraphrase Ian Fleming, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is already a fad. Car designers (or their bosses) are among the most faddish people on the planet, it seems sometimes. Don’t believe me? The new GMC Canyon midsize pickup truck has Altezza tail lights. One of the most widely proliferated fads in interior design has been the use of so-called French stitching, the use of contrasting colored running stitches along seams on leather upholstery. As someone who does machine embroidery on leather for a living, I know why it’s become popular. It looks good. The stitching slightly quilts the leather and gives it a three dimensional texture, a luxury touch. However, is it still a luxury touch when the latest Toyota Corolla has contrasting French “stitching” molded into the dashboard plastic?
I believe that I’ve found the next two interior design fads and like contrasting detail stitching they are starting out at that upper end of the market. The fads are quilted leather upholstery and textured woodgrain.
The first car that I noticed with quilted leather upholstery was an Aston Martin Vanquish Volante. Technically it wasn’t at the 2014 NAIAS, rather it was at “The Gallery”, a collection of about 30 six figure cars on display at a local casino for the enjoyment of about 400 invited heavy hitters. Well, I figured, they had to do something more distinctive and exclusive than French stitching.
On the floor of the NAIAS, one of the Audi convertibles in S Line trim had grey leather upholstery quilted with red stitching. Okay, that’s number two.
As Mr. Fleming indicated, when something happens three times or more, that usually indicates a pattern. In this case that pattern is diamond shaped quilting. Mercedes-Benz used the 2014 NAIAS for the world premier of Daimler’s latest flagship, the S600. While a Maybach trim package will be eventually offered on the S600, now that the Maybach brand of cars has been discontinued, until that ne plus ultra level of trim is offered, the S600 is the most luxurious Benz you can buy. Not only are the seating surfaces covered in quilted leather, so are the front and back consoles.
It won’t be long, will it, before quilted leather is offered as an option by most luxury brands? Of course, soon afterwards, you will probably find faux quilted vinyl in more mass market motorcars.
Quilted leather isn’t the only trend that just now is being offered on luxury cars but that later will spread to more plebeian automobiles. I recently reviewed an Audi A7 TDI and one nice touch in the cabin is how the interior designers worked to have a variety of textures pleasing to both eye and hand. Along with leather grain and brushed aluminum, there was plenty of wood, but instead of being covered with a high gloss clear coat giving a mirror smooth finish as might have been done just a few years ago, or even the more recent satin finishes, the Audi’s wood had grain you could feel.
Now normally I’d follow that rule of Mr. Fleming’s and wait until I found a third example before I declared a fad officially started, but the new Hyundai Genesis has an interior using wood that has a textured grain, one you can actually feel. Hyundai’s product planners seem exquisitely sensitive to signifiers of luxury so I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb to say that by next year’s NAIAS, you’ll be seeing cars that have interiors featuring both quilted leather and textured woodgrain.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS