(Article published in L’AUTOMOBILE Mechanic magazine, February 2024)

By Isabelle Havasy

The Montréal International Auto Show is a unique opportunity to meet the designers behind the cars that share our daily lives.

After graduating in design, Laetitia Lopez was aiming for a career in fashion when an automaker’s visit to her school introduced her to the CMF (colour, materials and finish) designer concept. Her passion for vehicle finishing led her to embrace this field. “I really fell in love with the idea of being a stylist [but] for a vehicle.”

Working closely with the marketing and design teams, Ms. Lopez ensures the harmony and consistency of Cadillac’s image within her department. Her work ranges from observing trends, to developing materials and colours with suppliers. “It has to be aligned with our times, with current trends, but in particular with customers; what they need, what will attract them. We’re really trying to play on authenticity and offer a level of comfort and craftsmanship across all elements of the vehicle,” she explains.

A Focus on Sustainability

Nestled at the heart of Cadillac’s philosophy, sustainability is now the watchword throughout the General Motors Group. “It’s one of the main reasons we decided to go electric. The primary goal is to reduce our CO2 emissions. […] We’re trying to find ways to be more sustainable through our materials and manufacturing process choices, for instance where we have our parts produced.”

Although forward-looking, Cadillac finds inspiration in its rich history. Ms. Lopez cites the example of GM’s Damsels of Design, the first female automotive stylists, whose influence lives on today. “We look a lot at what they did back then because it was hyper-popular. They were trend setters.” The young designer draws on the heritage of these pioneers for the integration of patterns, graphics and materials, while scrutinizing what’s to come in such diverse fields as fashion and architecture, to create a link between the brand’s past, present and future.

Paradigm Shift

But this future brings its own challenges. Ms. Lopez points out that electrification has led to a merging of design elements. “In the past, vehicle elements were very separate. For example, at the front, we had a grille and lights. […] Today, there is no longer any separation between these elements.” This paradigm shift is causing upheaval. “We’re going to have to combine technology with the beauty of the material, while remaining authentic,” she explains. Each component now takes on several roles, as functionality and technology encroach on the field of aesthetics.

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