- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

With the arrival of the new year comes the kickoff of the new auto show season. Auto shows, which are to the automotive industry what runway shows are to the fashion industry, provide a glimpse of the future. Exhibits will include what consumers will find in the showroom now as well as what they might drive 10 years from now.
After a few sneak peeks into automotive design studios, here's what I've been able to glean about trends on this year's auto show circuit:
The proliferation of crossover vehicles, those that defy traditional vehicle segments, will continue. For the most part, the crossovers at this year's shows blend aspects of a car usually a sedan, station wagon or hatchback with the off-road capability and ruggedness of a sport utility vehicle.
Audi introduces a sport-utility-like luxury station wagon with its Avantissimo concept. Infiniti's FX45, a precursor to an upcoming production model, combines aspects of a sports car and sport utility. The Chevrolet SSR blends sports car and pickup truck attributes. Swedish automakers, Saab and Volvo, get into the crossover act this year with the introduction of their car-based sport-utility-like vehicles. Saab introduces the 9-3X and the 9X, which indicate Saab's future direction, the automaker hints. Volvo introduces its first sport utility vehicle, the XC90, car-based with all-wheel drive and classic Volvo styling cues.
Sharing underbody components for cost savings while differentiating the bodies more dramatically becomes a new trend. In the past, the commonization of so-called platforms had been confined to one automaker. This year, the first major foray into sharing a platform between two competing automakers is on display with the Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix. Both use underbody components shared with the Toyota Corolla, but all three vehicles have vastly different bodies.
Wider choices in styles will be on shown. In the 1980s and 1990s, automotive designers tended to flock to aerodynamic, jellybean styling. They then played with cab-forward design for the added interior space it created. Edgy lines subsequently replaced rounded shapes, as on Ford's New Edge design form used on the Mercury Cougar. Last year, the militaristic hard-edged style dominated the auto show circuit. This year, automotive designers see rounded shapes, hard edges and military styles peacefully coexisting.
Softer colors, even pastels, will be stylish. "There's been a change of mood in colors lately," said Marilyn White, a color expert with paint and glass supplier PPG. "There are some cars with the soft pastel look at this year's Detroit show. If you look at apparel, women are wearing more delicate colors, and pastels go along with the retro movements. These pastels have metal in them so they still have a car feel." Natural tones such as beige, orange, copper and browns are on the rise. Gray tones are adding a dose of silver, especially on angular cars.
St. Louis glassmaker Solutia will even launch new colors for automotive glass. The company will add yellow, green, orange and red to its palette of green, brown and blue. Solutia last year showcased its colored glass on the Chevrolet SSR and the Hummer H2 concept vehicles.

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