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Reporter’s Notebook: False Teeth and Other Signs of Aging

Executive Summary

Ward’s writers pass along the buzz at this week’s Ward’s Auto Interiors Conference in Dearborn, MI.

Don’t Worry, Boomers Way Hip to All That

Generation gap? Not so fast, says Visteon’s Richard Vaughan.

Vaughan, design leader for the supplier, says future vehicles created with the younger, more technology-proficient Gen Y buyer in mind won’t necessarily scare off aging Baby Boomers.

There now are 76 million Gen Ys in the U.S. age 16-33, who represent the next big vehicle-buyer bubble, he says, and many will expect their cars to offer the same functionality they get from their iPhones and other handheld electronics.

These consumers “want all-in-one capability,” he says, pointing to cell phones that now allow access to the Internet, take pictures and store music. “Many (Gen Ys) have not purchased their first car yet, and how they purchase electronics is what they’ll want in their cars.”

Those same vehicles likely will appeal to aging Baby Boomers, Vaughan contends, downplaying common perceptions older buyers will be confused – and turned off – by all the new technology.

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“Boomers have embraced change,” he says, noting the age group was the first to use computers. “So there’s no reason to think they won’t adapt to new concepts in their (later) years.

“There’s more commonality between Gen Ys and Baby Boomers than it appears on the surface.”

Chews Me! Chews Me!

Ford chief designer J Mays uses one of his iPhone apps to demonstrate how he gets the attention of CEO Alan Mulally during meetings.

Mays holds his iPhone to his mouth and deploys the app, which displays chattering teeth reminiscent of the plastic windup toys sold in a novelty store. “This is an important tool for me,” he says. “I'm often in meetings with Alan, and designers struggle to get the attention of the leadership team. So I'm looking for apps to help me.”

Old-School Understatement

Don’t get into a bragging bout with Peter Evans, Benecke-Kaliko vice president-NAFTA.

“We’ve been around a long time,” Evans says of his company.

Benecke-Kaliko is credited with outfitting Napoleon’s carriage.

ZDX Design Has Teeth

Yuri Starik, Honda R&D America’s project leader-Acura ZDX, reveals the inspiration for a facet of the cross/utility vehicle’s functionality.

Neatly organized trays accommodate a tool kit concealed in the cargo compartment. The goal, Starik says, is to enable consumers to identify each tool at a glance and make them readily available – like dental instruments.

How Swede It Is!

Mike Cottone, Volvo Cars North America’s XC60 product launch manager, is relieved to accept the award for best premium-price truck interior.

“It’s nice to be known for something other than safety,” Cottone says.

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