In the past, the trend has been for caution, with few customers daring to be different and expressing their individuality through colour. But tastes are changing, reflecting shifts in Australian culture and lifestyle.

This trend is offering increasing scope to Australian automotive designers. Today more customers want intense and highly chromatic colours on their vehicles, both inside and out. Australians are no longer accepting the grey interiors of the 1980s and 1990s or the muted exterior colour palettes previously on offer. 

Apart from culture and climate, there are other influences in our drive to experiment more with colour.

Australians are now more in tune, for example, with the latest colour trends in fashion and cosmetics. Advanced methods of communication enable us to stay in touch and pick up trends simultaneously with the rest of the world.

It is imperative that colour and trim designers keep abreast of trends in related industries such as fashion, apparel, footwear, product design and architecture. In particular, designers need to be aware of the latest consumer crazes and lifestyle choices and successfully interpret this information to cars or any other product development.

As customers are becoming more confident with using colour in their homes, they are looking to use more colour in their car interiors. The trend is moving rapidly towards warmer, richer and chromatic colours, with a move away from the grey spectrum. Whether it is a grey with a colour tint or a non-grey pure hue, the under-tones for interior colours have grounding, balanced, earthy qualities.

Popular new colours are rich aubergine, lilac, fuscia and red, teamed with dark chocolate brown, mocha beiges and warmer mushroom whites. Also emerging are sophisticated caramels, camel, warm ochres and less saturated avocado. Car interiors are reflecting the move to more relaxed and comfortable home living environments with increasing focus on colour and texture.

Advances in the use of plastics in product design are also having a big influence in our industry. It wasn’t so long ago that white, grey and black were the staple colours used in plastic products such as toasters, kettles, telephones and computers.

Today, brands such as Alessi®, Swatch Watch®, Nike®, Adidas®, and Tupperware® are pioneering the use of colour and texture in plastic design. Plastic not only features in their products but is being transformed into
a finished material that is beautiful in itself.

Not surprisingly, as makers of consumer products, automotive companies are experimenting with the new qualities and image of plastics both for large and small applications in vehicles. Metallic flecks, changeable colour effects, translucent and ‘soft feel’ plastics are areas to watch out for in car interiors of the future.

The most noticeable exterior colour trend in Australia is the movement to very bright, pure colours for the more extroverted customer. The colours are hot, saturated, highly chromatic acid brights. Yellow, green, blue and red all play a part in this very dynamic palette. While the take-up of these colours is relatively small at the moment, we expect to see continuing growth in their popularity.

Interestingly, Australian colour trends are currently more aligned to Europe where there is continuing growth in bright colours for signature models. This differs to our neighbouring Asian countries where neutrals such as silver, white and black tend to be popular. 

While vehicle interior and exterior colours, plastics and finishes are becoming more complex and interesting, fabrics are taking another road. They are becoming increasingly understated, highly sophisticated and technical in their appearance not only in Australia but around the world. Fabric designs overall – whether they are knitted, woven or printed – are certainly much simpler, smaller in scale and geometric by nature. The focus remains on their colour, construction, yarn effects and technologies to create interest and texture.

Materials from fashion, interior and industrial design, such as mesh and stretch fabrics, are being considered for application in car interiors. New research is even looking at fabrics with medicinal and aromatic qualities.

Advances in automotive trim and colour technologies are allowing automotive designers to offer more choice to individual customers. Customers are exposed to so much choice in their everyday lives, they naturally expect it from their cars. They want to choose colours, fabrics and finishes which suit their tastes and lifestyles.  This drive to customize vehicles is leading to a more holistic approach to interior trim and design. Expect to see greater linking of interior and exterior colour and trim to create a seamless, harmonious transfer from the outside to the inside of the car.

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