Chevy talks about bringing user customization to its cars

build your ownWe spent some time at Chevy’s design center in Michigan this week, and in addition to letting us in on their engineering process and testing the Sonic the auto-maker spent some time explaining some of the new concepts behind its cars’ design and style.

decalUsing the Chevy Spark to show off these coming changes, design manager Todd Parker led us through the manufacturer’s new focus on style and customization in its products. Parker told us Chevy is taking inspiration from phone skins, using the idea that new generations are changing their mobile decor on a fairly regular basis. Chevy wants to extend the idea of personalizing your accessories and applying it to your vehicle.

Photos weren’t allowed, but suffice to say that the prototype decals we got a look at were extremely reminiscent of a phone or laptop skin. There were graphic-heavy patterns, race car-like stripes, and colorful wraps for the Spark. They varied from eye-catching to eyesore, but generally we couldn’t quite get behind them. Our first reaction was skeptical: Rifling through new outfits for a car seems almost silly, and we couldn’t imagine wrapping a car in images that look like they might be covering a sorority girl’s new MacBook.

But then Chevy through out a few buzzwords at as that actually made sense. Chevy is thinking global, we were told, global and youth buyers. It was mentioned later in the day that silver, white, and black are typically the bestselling colors for Chevy automobiles in the US, but that in Asian markets a blush pink shade has become hugely popular.

chevy sparkJust to give you a little background, the Spark is Chevy’s smallest car and has just been announced for US consumers. It’s manufactured in South Korea and will be available stateside in 2013. The vehicle has been an important foray into foreign markets: Don’t know about you, but when we hear Chevy we may as well hear the “Like a Rock” commercial jingle. A mini-car makes its intentions to reach new demographics obvious.

And that’s where it seems like this customization focus comes in. Customers are becoming used to the idea of making their own anything, whether its building their own Dell laptop online or making custom ringtones. In fact, there is even a pack of gum advertising an option to go to the site and make your own personalized pack.

Chevy said it expects this option to be popular with the 18-25 year old crowd, which can be a difficult market to eke dollars (typically non-existing at the moment) out of. Chevy also described the idea of picking and choosing how to design your car online, and even alluded to a future where you could update and customize your dashboard’s display by visiting a dealer and uploading changes via flash drive. Youth buyers are more digitally and aesthetically inclined than most, and while that may not revolutionize the industry, you have to admire taking a risk to offer consumers new options.

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