By Rhoda Miel, Plastics News Staff
Detroit, Michigan-French automotive interiors supplier Faurecia SA wants to encourage drivers to change the look of their cars nearly as easily as they change clothes.
Designers at the seating and interiors manufacturer have created a way to change the covering, or skin, on the instrument panel, door panels and seats within minutes. The changes can give a car one look for a business trip and another for a night on the town. The skins are showcased on Faurecia's Happy Attitude concept car, shown at a news conference in Detroit last month.
To make the concept skin a reality, Faurecia and its customers would have to reconsider how the supplier makes those interior parts. But owners would have a vehicle that is easy to customise, said Andreas Wlasak, industrial-design vice president for Faurecia, of Nanterre, France.
Rather than making an instrument panel that encompasses a structural substrate, foam and skin, Faurecia conceivably could produce the substrate as one piece of the package, then allow consumers to pop on the skin of their choice.
That skin would be similar to a fascia, providing an aesthetic cover for structural and impact-protection parts on a bumper.
The company would have to mold and assemble a complete substrate that can hold all the electronics and other parts within a normal instrument panel, as well as a secure fastening system for the skin, Wlasak said.
The Happy Attitude collection includes a standard injection-moulded skin as well as textile versions.
The collection also has a concept skin called "Moon Time," which highlights the structural ribs of the substrate. Rather than a straight grid pattern, the ribs curve and circle across the structure and are visible through a polyurethane skin. The ribs provide a 2-mm gap between the skin and substrate, giving a soft touch to the part without the cost of adding foam, said Olivier Boinais, industrial-design manager of Faurecia's North American operations.
Wlasak said Faurecia is introducing the concept to automakers and is in talks to bring some aspects of it to the road in future cars.