As the user demands on car interiors are increasingly influenced by their growing design consciousness, so suppliers like Lear strive to bring better-engineered seating to satisfy.
2013 was another big year for Lear, as Jeanette Puig-Pey, its global fabric & leather design manager, enthuses: "At our ‘Design2Perform' event we celebrated the unveiling of our brand new collection, with special emphasis on color and texture and our TeXstyle Enhance product, perfect for customization. Laser etching is part of this offering, it is exclusive to Lear Corporation and can be used to add refined design elements to cloth and leather."
A mix of fabric and leather in seating is not new but is often seen by the consumer as a cheaper alternative to full leather. Lear is determined to give this combination a special appeal though, as Puig-Pey continues: "Customers probably wouldn't have embraced the idea of combining these materials in a seat ten years ago, however material combinations are resonating in fashion, for example, and influencing the trend."
Terri Tahnoose, VP global product marketing, concurs: "We are the world leader in luxury and performance car seating, and work very closely with our seat trim and engineering teams. One of the technologies we are proud of is our Lear Crafted Comfort Connect, which allows us to trim seats that are highly contoured and thinner than usual by bonding the material to the seat."
Lear has a total seat approach with strategic engineering, as global trim marketing manager Mara Ignatius points out: "Fabrics can be designed to allow weight and cost to be reduced for non-high wear areas, allowing opportunity for embellishment techniques like laser etching to be used on the portion of the seat with the most visible impact."
Another exciting technology exclusive to Lear Corporation is leather printing, which was also introduced at the last ‘Design2Perform' event under the embellishment product Aventino Signature.
"With this technology comes greater options for graphic patterns, gradient colors, and specialty finishes like high gloss, metallics and pearls," says Puig-Pey. "They will all appeal to customization trends in the market."
Other near-term trends include lighter palettes within car interiors but with this comes durability and ease-of-cleaning issues. Lear has solutions though, from TeXstyle Defense that helps to keep lighter-colored fabrics clean longer and resists staining and odor, to Aventino Defense, which enables light-colored leather to resist staining from denim dye transfer.
“If you can dream it, you can
make it happen at Lear”
Longer-term trends such as autonomous vehicles are also exciting to Lear. As Puig-Pey adds: "Comfort will become even more important as drivers and passengers have more ‘hands-free' time. We will move to a more home environment-inspired interior with comfort and technology being at the forefront."
Lear acquired Guilford Performance Textiles in 2012, giving additional capability in Europe, Asia and North America. Guilford is active in automotive headliner textiles but also has a non-automotive specialty fabric business, serving big name sports brands like Nike and Under Armour. But why should budding designers choose Lear as a place to work?
"We try to foster a dynamic creative environment here", says Puig-Pey. "Our global surface material design team is made up of 21 designers in seven countries, all working together and drawing on influences from fashion, architecture, art and science. There is some distinction in the demands of different markets but also a ‘coming together' of design, all of which should be very attractive to young designers. My message to them would be: If you can dream it, you can make it happen at Lear."
Summing up Lear's competence, Puig-Pey concludes: "We feel that Lear's vertical integration approach is key to our success. At the same time as designing fabric and leather, we work with our seating engineers on seat structure innovation. Our artisans have been developing seats for the entirety of their careers. Learning from them and sharing that expertise with our customers helps us offer advanced design options. As the world leader in performance and luxury seating, we provide the complete seat, from design to delivery."