Inspiring the Customized Car

While autonomous cars may be the way of the future, it won't be the only way.

 64 percent of millennials say they "love" their cars.

If automakers listen to the desires of tomorrow's driver, they'll see that though millennials love their smartphones, they love their cars just as much.

According to Deloitte's 2014 Gen Y Consumer Study, more than three-quarters of millennials plan on purchasing or leasing a car over the next five years, and 64 percent of millennials say they "love" their cars. Sales figures are reflecting the sentiment; in the first half of 2014, millennials outnumbered Gen X for the first time ever in terms of new car purchases.

And, this is especially true if the car reflects who they are from the inside out.

"Automakers are beginning to see this possibility of customizing not only for the driver's individual preferences, but also to resemble corporate brand, design and style," said Christopher Bradlee, market segment manager for BASF's Performance Materials division. "Now, we're looking at ways to incorporate artistic impressions and other design elements that fit the overall brand of the OEM."

Let's take a look at how BASF helps advance the customized car to help automakers deliver today's youngest drivers what they want:

1. Beginning with a car's exterior, color is still a key purchase driver. Specifically, millennials value the opportunity to demonstrate their unique individuality through the color of their car. BASF's Global Coatings Color Collection 2014/2015 "Under the Radar" report indicates a budding trend - people around the world will appreciate uniqueness and see their individual thinking and actions increasingly impactful in society. The choices of automotive colors will reflect an increased consumer demand for differentiation and individuality. Bright colors as well as warm-influenced colors in new metal effects will enrich the color portfolio of the cars of tomorrow.

Most of us remember Ford offering the Fiesta in green envy metallic and blue candy colors, and then the Chevrolet Spark with its jalapeno metallic, lemonade and salsa shades.  More recently, Ford gained a lot of attention at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit teasing a beautiful shade of blue paint known as 'Liquid Blue'.

2. No longer are the days of plain leather or cloth interior options. Instead, BASF's valure™, a transfer coating technology, allows automakers the ability to customize the surface finish of virtually any type of texture, while still offering flexibility and freedom of design. From natural surfaces to technical textures, valure ultimately protects the surface durability and enhances the appeal. Portrayed in the iconic vintage 1958 BMW Isetta, BASF reimagined and brought to life a new interior combining the expertise of the coatings and polyurethanes divisions.

3. Imagine a world of uniquely printed cars that mirror the diverse desires and needs of an enthusiast. The evolution of 3D printing may bring the ability to custom design and build modifications to existing specs, or even design an entire vehicle to meet the driver's preferences.

With the help of BASF's coating division, achieving a durable, smooth finish on these somewhat rigid 3D printed vehicles makes this possible. In fact, BASF recently partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and TruDesign to recreate a 1965 Shelby Cobra, 3D printing and achieving a 'Class A Finish' on the entire vehicle in six short weeks.

Soon, a customer may walk into a car dealership, choose a design and walk out the same day with a vehicle printed to their liking.

Elastollan® automotive cup holders feature excellent adhesion to substrate, transparency, resistance to weathering and color stability.

Elastollan® automotive cup holders feature excellent adhesion to substrate, transparency, resistance to weathering and color stability.

4. Customization in lighting is nothing new, but increased design flexibility in lighting allows for branding ques to further drive affinity. For example, Jeep could etch the outline of a mountain scene in the interior of their cup holders.

BASF's Elastollan®, a thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer (TPU), helps filter light through plastic to showcase any image an automaker may want to shine through.  From a lighted cup holder to dashboard trim, the material can withstand everyday wear and tear and be used in a wide variety of applications.

"BASF will continue to be an important enabler as our materials inspire designers down this road of automotive customization," concluded Bradlee.