Stahl on Automotive Design Trends of the Future

Automotive IQ interviewed Caroline Hartmann, Fashion Team Designer Automotive from Stahl, with some insight into the projects taking place at Stahl Design Studio®, current trends moving the automotive industry, and Stahl’s focus on sustainability. 

What is your background, and how did you come to work in your current position at Stahl?

My background is industrial designer, as I have a degree in industrial design and product design from my studies at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) in Pforzheim in Germany. After having finished studying, I started my professional career in an industrial design office where I worked for 5 years, working within industrial equipment such as power tools. I then started at an American leather supplier for the automotive industry, and I worked for 8 years as a Design Manager for Europe where I supported the European OEM’s with future automotive leather developments. I then came to work with Stahl in 2009, which is great as I can use my knowledge and network within technical, design and automotive.


Caroline Hartmann at the Center of Excellence for Automotive in Waalwijk, the Netherlands

Can you give us an insight into what takes place at Stahl Design Studio®? 

Stahl Design Studio® for automotive is specialized in future trends and color forecasts. At the studio, we develop appealing trend collections for leather and synthetic materials for use in the automotive industry. We also support customers in translating these trends into future product designs. For example, I was involved in the interiors of the Rinspeed concept cars Etos and Oasis, both introduced and presented at the CES Fair in Las Vegas. 

Based on latest insights from leading experts, we develop a brand new automotive leather trend collection once a year. Additionally every other year we create an automotive trend collection for synthetics. 

With our trend presentations we present General Trend Themes to inspire our customer most: We believe that a lot of trends start in fashion, then goes into furniture or interior design and in automotive. In addition to that we also do customer specific trend presentations. We present these together as a team with our customers to the OEMs.


Car interior design inspirations

What are the big trends you see that are important for the automotive sector? 

In general, some of the bigger trends are within connectivity and digitalization, autonomous driving and electrical cars. Also VOC-free car interiors and the reduction of CO2 by using more sustainable materials. We also see a trend in lighter colors, so anti-soil or stay clean solutions are needed which we have in our portfolio. 

Overall, car interiors are gaining importance. A car is no longer purely a means of transport, but rather an extension of your living room or office. Consumers therefore want a high degree of comfort and a luxury experience with harmonization of form and function. The touch and feel of the automotive interior needs to be natural and soft. Therefore, we have a broad portfolio to meet these demands. For example, color matching, our large range of products to protect car interior upholstery, such as Stay Clean and PolyMatte® to prevent squeaking materials or other rattling noises. This gets more and more important as cars become more silent.

Sustainability maintains a big focus at Stahl, how do you ensure sustainability within the design department?

Sustainability requirements are becoming increasingly stringent in the automotive industry. As market leader, we believe we have to take our responsibility. Our dedicated R&D staff is constantly working on the development of (substitute) products that are less invasive than traditional solutions. Some of our latest sustainability solutions are, for example, Proviera® - Probiotics for Leather™, Stahl EasyWhite Tan™, STAHL EVO , bio-based PolyMatte® and Stahlite®. In the Stahl Design Studio® we definitely take this into account when developing the new trend collection. Our trend collections are a perfect tool to present our newest technologies to our customers.


Cover of Design Inspiration 2017-18

How do you forecast the trends? And how will it come back into the organization?

We are members of various online trend information sources and also member of the  international Color Marketing Group, where designers from around the world are members, and regularly come together to develop together the colors of the future. We also visit relevant fairs, for instance IAA, Geneva Auto Salon, Milano Furniture Fair, Premiere Vision in Paris and many other events. Finally we also do general trend research, and with regular reporting we share these findings with the rest of the team

For any business enquiries, who should be contacted at Stahl?

Please contact Stefan Buri, our Global Marketing Director Automotive for business enquiries. Email:


Company information according to § 5 Telemediengesetz
IQPC Gesellschaft für Management Konferenzen mbH
Address: Friedrichstrasse 94, 10117 Berlin
Tel: 49 (0) 30 20 913 -274
Fax: 49 (0) 30 20 913 240
Registered at: Amtsgericht Charlottenburg, HRB 76720
VAT-Number: DE210454451
Management: Silke Klaudat, Richard A. Worden, Michael R. Worden

Firmeninformationen entsprechend § 5 Telemediengesetz
IQPC Gesellschaft für Management Konferenzen mbH
Adresse: Friedrichstrasse 94, 10117 Berlin
Telefonnummer: 030 20913 -274
Fax: 49 (0) 30 20 913 240
Email Adresse:
Registereintragungen: Amtsgericht Charlottenburg HRB 76720
Umsatzsteuer- Indentifikationsnummer DE210454451
Geschäftsführung: Silke Klaudat, Richard A. Worden, Michael R. Worden