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Mercedes-Benz Design Studio, Stuttgart

Pulling up to the Mercedes-Benz Design Studio in Stuttgart in a convoy of black Mercedes minivans only further augmented the feeling that we were entering the inner sanctum of some secret society. At the door, we had to check our phones and cameras before we were led into an enormous showroom where streamlined silhouettes taunted us from under car covers.

A door opened at one end of the hall, and our chaperones herded us into a presentation room equipped with a Powerwall, a rear-projection, hi-tech viewing wall that allows designers to see their work to scale before committing them to prototype. A custom version of Autodesk Showcase powers the display, with users controlling the view with what looks like a chess board from Star Trek. After a talk about how high-quality, long-lasting luxury items have a place in the new economic paradigm of sustainability and responsibility, we were taken upstairs to where the cars’ interiors are labored over by interior designers, fashion experts, and engineers.

Various paint colors were displayed on a wall – Obsidianshwarz, Feueropal, Palladiumsilber — as well as “mood boards” of stock images that aimed to sum up an atmosphere the designers were striving to achieve with each combination of seat leather and wood detailing. Apparently, all leather than goes into Mercedes interiors is sourced from male cattle (so their skin doesn’t stretch from giving birth) raised indoors (so they don’t get bitten by bugs) across southern Germany and Austria — a level of specificity in opulence befitting a Roman emperor. What was that they said about sustainability?