We have arrived at the next frontier in automotive design: pockets.
Now that new cars and trucks have cup holders in just about every conceivable place and enough electrical outlets for cell phones, video games and computers, designers are filling the interior of cars with pockets for tennis balls, backpacks, sneakers and much more.The car companies say market research tells them that a map pouch in the door, a glove compartment and maybe a hidey-hole in the console just don't provide enough places to stash the necessities of life. One of the first models to address this will be Nissan Motor Co.'s new small sport utility vehicle, known so far only by its project name, the 133. The vehicle is to go on sale in mid-1999.
Nissan hasn't been known for innovation, which is one reason its market share has been eroding in the United States. Hoping to distinguish its new vehicle from the competition, Nissan has equipped it with pockets upon pockets.
The new Nissan has a cubbyhole in the rear tailgate that can house dirty soccer cleats, wet snowshoes or a kid's filthy backpack. Under the carpeting in the rear cargo area, there is a hidden compartment for small objects, like tools or tent stakes. And in the big rear cargo space are hooks for different types of storage nets. For sports equipment and other bulky items, Nissan added an overhead cargo area on the roof of the vehicle.
In focus groups and surveys, drivers say they are sick of tennis balls rolling around the gas pedal or skis poking out of the trunk. They want a place for everything and everything in its place.
"I'm big on having things organized," says Laura Adamowicz of Great Neck, N.Y., who currently drives a Ford Explorer. She plans to replace it with a Ford Expedition and is intrigued by the idea of even more specialized compartments in mammoth proportions.
Based on past experience, the automakers will oblige her. Early on in the car-as-home-trend, Toyota researchers measured every possible drink size - even camping out to watch people's drinking habits in their cars and trucks. Other car makers were doing their own research, and the cup-holder war began.
Today, the well-equipped car or truck can lug anything from a Big Gulp soda to a large latte. General Motors Corp.'s Chevy Venture now boasts 17 cup holders, or nearly two cup holders for every passenger.