Passenger Health Displays and Other Design Trends from 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Passenger Health Displays and Other Design Trends from 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Detroit reveals color accents and door handle displays on the roads ahead

Dave Pinter, PSFK
  • 27 january 2016

The Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) remains the best venue to observe consumer vehicle design trends in the United States. While New York and Los Angeles stage shows that edge closer to the stature of Detroit each year, the breath and depth presented in the Motor City is still unmatched. The 2016 show had some notable highlights as well as a continuation of some themes we saw from the previous NYIAS and CES.

Debut Diversity


The stratification of model types has put many automakers on similar product-planning schedules. Everyone raced to introduce full-size SUVs when that market was hot followed by CUVs then crossovers. The result has been several years of auto shows with the majority of vehicle debuts being of a similar kind. Those cycles seem to be finally breaking up. There was refreshing variety represented at Detroit this year.

The new Chrysler Pacifica minivan was eagerly awaited. Chevy unveiled a hatchback version of their small Cruize sedan. Ford showcased the beastly F150 Raptor truck. and Smart drove out their new fortwo micro convertible.

Luxury Sedan Second Chapter


Traditional full-sized sedans looked to go extinct after buyers flocked to more versatile SUVs and crossovers over the past decade. But there is something of a resurgence in the category that we first saw at the 2015 New York Auto Show with strong showings from Cadillac, Lincoln and Jaguar. Mercedes debuted a plug-in hybrid version of their E Class sedan. Lincoln revealed the production version of their new luxury flagship Continental. Hyundai announced that Genesis would be their standalone luxury brand leading with the new full-sized G90. And Volvo launched the stunningly beautiful S90 that bears a more sophisticated and refined design language for the Swedish brand.

Screen Time


Touchscreens in cars are already common and if interior concepts from Audi and Kia are any indication, there are lots more going to be integrated into vehicle interiors in the future. Beyond the typical dash and headrest displays, Kia’s Telluride SUV concept had individual passenger health information displayed on panels surrounding each interior door handle.

Angular Momentum


There’s a consensus among car designers that angles on cars, particularly the front, are cool. The more angles the better it seems. This shape language has been with us for a number of years now and there probably isn’t much left in it. We’ll probably see a return to more curves and organic shapes particularly with electric vehicle design which doesn’t require so many vent openings for air cooling and that needs smoother shapes for aero efficiency.



The hue of choice, particularly for concept cars at NAIAS 2016 was saturated red. It coated everything from Acura’s sleek Performance Concept to VW’s rugged Tiguan GTE Active Concept CUV.

Light Sculptures


LEDs have had an incredible effect on the design of headlights and taillights. Chrome used to be considered the ‘jewelry’ of auto design, but these days, it’s the lights. We’re seeing lights used as distinctive graphic elements, incorporated with air intakes and cooling vents and floating above body surfaces to become forms of their own. Many beg a closer look to see the intricate patterns and textures designed into the lenses.

Color Accents


Home interior designers often recommend largely neutral palettes with touches of bright color as accents which can be easily changed out. It prevents getting sick of that all chartreuse bedroom which seemed like a good idea at the paint store. Many automakers seemed to adopt this thinking with largely neutral exterior and interior colors paired with bright accents. It shows that a touch of bright color can alter the personality of a car without blasting the whole thing with bright yellow. And as individual tastes go, keeping to an accent makes better sense for resale.

You can see more highlights from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show in our Press Day one and two roundups.


Photos: Bill Pinter, Dave Pinter

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