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COVID-19 Has Designers Rethinking Car Interiors

COVID-19 has caused the world to pause, including car designers. What they have realized is that now more than ever, a swelling amount of people are viewing their car as their sanctuary. Consequently, designers are rethinking how that sanctuary will look in the future, and how to make it more sanctuary-like. 

Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet interior
Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet interior | Mercedes-Benz

In the words of the designers

In an article posted this morning on Bloomberg, Gorden Wagener, Daimler’s head of design, was quoted as saying, 

“The pandemic will change our perception of how we experience safety and luxury in the future,” Wagener says, predicting that the two will become much more intimately intertwined. “This can be a challenging but an exciting time.”

The article goes on to claim that a lot of the safety and luxury that is being considered for the future is related to the interior of vehicles. The same sentiment seems to be shared by Felix Kilbertus, head of exterior design for Rolls-Royce, who says,

“The future more than ever will be about the freedom of going places safely—and these cars will be more than ever about their interior.”

And, 

“An interior has always been a safe space—people will do all kinds of things in their car they won’t do on their own front lawn,” like hold business meetings, apply makeup, and, uh, pursue romance. “The idea of the interior as a grand sanctuary has become very relevant,” he explained. “I believe it is a transformation that this current situation accelerates.”

The safety cocoon

The notion is to make the car a proverbial safety cocoon for the physical body and the mind. Certainly, there are protective measures on the exterior of the vehicle to make it safe for the occupants such as crush zones, breakaway panels, etc., but the eye to the future dictates that the safety cocoon needs to be translated indoors as well. To that end, manufacturers started years ago, adding cabin filters to keep contaminants in the air to a minimum. Also, ambient lighting, massaging seats, and top-notch sound systems have all trickled down from higher-end cars.

For the mind too

The emphasis for the designers now, due to the Coronavirus fiasco, is to add greater privacy, better feeling surfaces, air ionizers, or negative ion-generators that filter out pollutants and kill mold and bacteria. In fact, the heating and air conditioning systems could be used to cleanse, or even scent, the air in the cabin. All these efforts would make the cabin a place for occupants to find peace of mind and body, an escape as it were, from the stress of the day, and the toxins that can infiltrate the being.

Rear interior of the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – MAY 05: An interior view of The Rolls Royce PhantomVIII 2017 Long & Short wheel base as designed by Designer Giles Taylor stands in London Studio on May 5, 2017 in London, England | Photo by Martyn Goddard/Corbis via Getty Images

The sanctuary

These sentiments of making the car the sanctuary are not far fetched. Millions of people, including myself, use a vehicle a personal getaway to reset. I will speak from my own experience that open road therapy is great when I get overwhelmed. Never underestimate the power of your favorite music playing loudly with the windows cracked open and a good road to corner through. But also, I have found it a place to contemplate the deeper things while I sit in the parking lot or driveway in silence under a starlit night. Some people are uncomfortable in silence. Some people need silence. The car can provide both. If the cabin were to be all the more comfortable and the air to be cleaner as is being suggested, I might stay in the car longer, or relax faster.