DETROIT - Automotive interior designers have never had it tougher. They have to deal with an increasing variety of government safety regulations. But they also must make sure the interior doesn't appear cramped and that the driver can see around thickly padded pillars.
Then there's the challenge of satisfying discriminating consumers, who have come to expect features such as power windows and automatic dimming mirrors. Above all, there's cost. The solution? Use plastic. It's cheap, and you can make almost any shape. But there's a drawback. Peter Davis, director of interior strategy and quality at General Motors, had this observation at this spring's Auto Interiors Show in Detroit: "We've created a generic, monotonous interior in America that we really have to break away from."
Well, plastic is not going away. So designers put in long hours to choose the right materials and patterns to give plastic surfaces character. No wonder designers cringe when consumers use protectants that leave surfaces shiny. D
Chaz Ozburn is national editor of