"We want to celebrate whatever we can with regards to where the company comes from, and that is Korea, what we might call the K factor," said Christopher Chapman, chief designer of Hyundai Design North America, speaking of the G90, the flagship for Hyundai's new luxury brand. "We're on this journey now of identifying what great things Korean culture has to offer that we can infuse into the car."
The rear seat of the G90 features a business-class-style seat designed specifically to make a Korean tycoon feel a sense of serenity in a crowded urban environment. The G90 interior is dominated by strong horizontal lines designed to create a feeling of calm.
This car is for a Korean chairman of the board, says Andrew Moir, interior design manager for Hyundai Design North America. "He wants to be very comfortable in back." It doesn't hurt that customers in China are big on rear-seat amenities also.
The Volvo S90 comes with a shifter knob made of Swedish crystal "that is really all about showing off Sweden's heritage in glass-making and crystal," said Tisha Johnson, a Volvo senior director of design. An elegant, architectural, metallic spline runs the full length of the dash and frames a vertical, tablet-size infotainment screen, designed to evoke clean Scandinavian themes.
And the Lincoln Continental will be offered in a Black Label trim model called Rhapsody, in hom-age to the great American composer George Gershwin, who wrote Rhapsody in Blue. The seats, steering wheel and interior trim panels are swathed in blue leather.
"We got inspired by George Gershwin. He did a very good composition combining jazz and classical together," said Soo Kang, Lincoln's interior design chief. The Continental features a 30-way customizable seat.
Anne Asensio, vice president of design experience at Dassault Systemes in Paris and former executive director of advance design at General Motors, says interior design is of paramount importance in luxury these days.
"You need to bring the interior into the same level of the exterior. Volvo is considering the interior equal or beyond the exterior.
"The guidelines are being defined by the Germans," she said. To get on the same level "is a big step, and it takes a long time."
Asensio felt the Volvo came closest to offering a coherent alternative to the Germans, saying, "It's a very quiet, very refined, very controlled design. It is so straightforward. It is really, really Volvo."
Stewart Reed, chairman of the Department of Transportation Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., says that with warp-speed change in technology and the rapid evolution of materials, interiors are changing more rapidly than any other area of the car. That's why interiors are no longer considered the "B team" by design students at schools such as Art Center College, Reed says.
"It's just absolutely wonderful what is possible now," he said. "There's no more complex or challenging part of a car than the interior."