DETROIT Jan 15 Natural fibres derived from
hemp, coconut, bamboo or kenaf could be used in car interiors to
get away from the "plastic feeling" of many cars on the road.
"What is going to be key for cars is the way the interior
feels, smells, sounds and looks like," said Philippe Aumont, the
product planning vice president at French car parts group
He said statistics in Europe showed the majority of people
buy their cars without a test drive.
"So the time they spend in the showroom is very important -
the click of a button, the touch of the dashboard, the feel of
the steering wheel, the sound of closing the glove compartment,"
he said on the sidelines of the North American International
Auto Show on Tuesday.
"It is all about perceived quality."
Faurecia, majority controlled by Europe's second-biggest
volume carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA), has comfort
enhancement of interiors as one of its business priorities,
alongside safety and environmental issues.
Aumont said there was a trend towards 'premiumisation' of
car interiors as more and more carmakers seek to chase the
premium clients because that is a fast growing market segment.
In Europe, for instance, the overall car market was flat to
lower while there was a 20 percent year on year growth in the
premium segment which starts with such cars as the Audi A4 from
Volkswagen (VOWG.DE), the BMW (BMWG.DE) 3 series or the new
Renault (RENA.PA) Laguna and Citroen C5.
At the other end of the market are the no-frills models such
as the coming Tata (TAMO.BO) Nano or the Logan of Renault's
In between, will be the run-of-the mill volume models that
will use hand-me-downs of their more expensive stablemates.
Aumont said the advantage of the natural fibres was not only
their feel but also they were 'greener' -- "We are resorting to
materials that have already used CO2 in their life, it does not
add to CO2 emissions," he said.
"Land needs primarily to be used to grow crops to feed
humans and animals. But what is not used from the crop -- like
the core of a corn cob -- can be used for its fibre," he said.
Kenaf, for instance, can be used in dashboards, and bamboo
fibres can strengthen seats. Coconut is used in the 'shell' of
the car interior and hemp in the lining of doors.
Aumont said U.S. carmakers were looking to European
suppliers like Faurecia to deliver the premium interiors of
their German rivals.
Faurecia, which is on the Audi A4, Mini Clubman or BMW X6,
also worked with Cadillac on the CTS and does the instrument
panel and seats of the 2008 North American Car of the Year Award
winner - the Chevrolet Malibu.
Faurecia first half 2007 sales in North America were up by
40 percent compared with the previous year.
In security, the trend is towards gadgets that can sense
when an accident might be happening and act to limit damage to
the car occupants -- with products such as active head
restraints that limit the distance between the headrest and the
head at time of impact.
Another trend will be how to handle all those electronic
gadgets from PDAs and Ipods to mobile phones.
"You get in your car with all these things in your pockets
and you will have to store them somewhere and there should be
some kind of docking system -- because it will still take a long
time before we have wireless power supply," Aumont said.
For more on the Detroit Auto Show in Reuters blogs, click here