Contitech’s buisness unit, Benecke-Kaliko, has now succeeded in developing scratch-resistant materials that remain unblemished on contact with pointed objects such as keys. The materials cover dashboards, side trim panels and storage spaces in passenger and commercial vehicles.
Advances in exteriors and technology mean every new generation of vehicle becomes safer than the last, thanks to airbags and brake assistance and distance control systems, for example. But interior design is also becoming increasingly important for drivers. Instead of consisting of age-old solid plastics, cockpits have for quite some time been dominated by finely textured, high-quality materials that are pleasant to touch, even in small and medium-sized vehicles.
As expectations from in-car living spaces continue to rise, more and more high-class designs are being implemented, along with fabric covers that have been complex to produce and are hopefully built to last. More often than not, however, these aspirations are thwarted faster than might have been thought. Drop a keyring in an unfortunate way or scrape the edge of a bulky piece of luggage across a surface and visible marks will be left. Scuffs on dashboards and door trim panels or in luggage compartments can put a damper on the joy of a beautiful vehicle.
But what’s serious to the owner of the private car is actually a comparatively minor irritation for fleet managers and car rental companies. For them, issues like these have considerable financial implications, with additional money lost on lease vehicles when defects identified on their return. Only 40 percent of new vehicles sold to private customers, while the remaining 60 percent go to commercial users.
“The problem of customer complaints is all too familiar to fleet managers and car rental companies. If one client uses a new car and damages the interior, the next will see the blemish as a sign of poor service. This has a major impact on customer loyalty,” explains Dr Alexander Jockisch, Head of Business Development and Marketing at Benecke-Kaliko. But a solution is at hand in the shape of new surface materials created by his company.