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Future Avs (& Others) Will Have Nicer Interiors!


SM 2003
Full Member
Aug 11, 2002
GM Interiors: Changing from Inside

Interior design is a key to the automaker?s revival.
by Paul A. Eisenstein ? ? ? 8/26/2002

At a top-secret briefing in Santa Barbara earlier this month, General Motors officials pulled the wraps off a baker?s dozen of their most important future products. Part of a broader background session on the revolution reshaping the world?s largest automaker, the goal was to show that GM intends to reclaim its historic role as an automotive design trend-setter.

?Design is the soul of a product,? declared Gary Cowger, president of GM?s core North American operations.

But design is more than skin deep. The shape of the exterior sheet metal may be what draws you to take a closer look at a car. But like its competitors, GM has discovered that increasingly, it?s the interior that ultimately wins a potential customer over?and keeps an owner loyal when it?s time to trade in.

But the fact is, GM simply hasn?t had world-class interiors concedes ? :6: , the automaker?s vice chairman and ?car czar,? Bob Lutz. For all the very visible attention GM is placing on upgrading its exterior design, it is working at least as diligently to upgrade its interiors. ? ?:0:

The problem is rooted in the basic philosophy of the American Big Three. Traditionally, the interior is the last thing a company like GM finishes up during the design and engineering process. In large part, that?s because it?s been the easiest place to save some money and cover cost overruns elsewhere in a vehicle program. ? :8:

So there have to be fundamental changes in the way you view and manage product development, insists Martin Smith, who heads the automaker?s interior design studios in Europe. Smith is one who clearly understands the importance of a good looking dashboard and the tight fit of a door panel. Before joining GM, he headed interior design at Audi, the company routinely hailed as having the best cabins.

?You have to have a management that knows that if you do a better interior, it will be better received by customers and you will sell more cars,? says Smith. ? ;D

Along with Anne Asensio, his counterpart in North America?and given a clear vote of support from Lutz? Smith is trying to craft an interior revolution, declaring it ?the attribute that defines the new GM.? ? (y)

It will require additional spending, of course, for the use of more sophisticated materials, such as leather, real wood, brushed aluminum and slush-molded plastics. The latter is a new method by which key interior components, such as an instrument panel, can be formed. The process is slower, and more challenging than the traditional approach. But it allows a designer to craft complex shapes and fits as precise as any from Audi or Lexus. ? (y)

The challenge, says Smith, ?is to balance vehicle specifications and put money in where people see it every day.? But some of the added cost can be offset by sharing the underlying components between a large number of vehicles. When Audi first introduced a foldaway cupholder on its A6 which stowed away in the instrument panel, the piece cost was nearly $30. By expanding the use to other models in the Audi and broader VW Group, the cost fell by nearly 90%.

Under Smith?s guidance, GM?s European subsidiary, Opel, has adopted the 4-step Audi interior program. Among other things, this moves interior design up in the product development process. ?And it sets high standards for the final product. ?If you don?t get the ratings you need, it is just as serious? as missing key targets for such things as exterior design and powertrain performance, Smith explains. ? :D

Smith has been with Opel just five years and so, with the industry?s long lead times, his efforts are just beginning to show up. But the first visible example, the Opel Zafira, has won raves. And Smith promises ?the next Astra will be comparable or better than what is being done at the Volkswagen Group.?

He says it will mean more than tight fits-and-finishes. Opel?s goal is to give customers a broad array of choices, so they can customize the interior to reflect their own personal tastes and styles, ?an ambience in the car that is right for him.?

The transformation will take a bit longer to reach the U.S., ? :8: ? especially in lower-priced segments. Europeans are far more willing to pay for quality and refinement, ? :7: ?GM officials note. But they also realize that the competitive nature of the business won?t let them back down. ?

?Good enough is not the right target,? stresses Asensio, no matter what market segment you?re competing in.

Should the automaker fail to understand, it simply has to look over its shoulder. European and Asian automakers continue to improve their interior designs. And so does GM?s domestic competitors. ?We think we have a good two years on them (GM),? asserts Ford Motor Co.?s design chief, J Mays, who like Smith, was part of the design revolution at Audi before migrating to the U.S. ? :B:

The four-step process is now migrating to this side of the Atlantic, and it will begin bearing fruit over the next several years. The first clear American example of GM?s interior revolution will come with the launch of the Cadillac CTSv early next year. ? :B:

The base CTS has won raves for its handling and despite some controversy over its edgy ?Art & Science? design theme, the look has clicked with customers. But critics have been notably uncharitable in reviewing the car?s lackluster interior. The performance-edition CTSv will attempt to resolve that with a marked upgrade. There?ll be richer materials and such things as sill plates on the door, something in line with such European alternatives as the BMW M3. ? :B:

GM also hopes that a world-class interior will provide the long-awaited, next-generation Chevrolet Cavalier with a desperately-needed boost. ? :B:

The simple fact, says Asensio, is that when you design a vehicle, ?you are telling a story.? And no matter how good the exterior, no matter how stiff the suspension or powerful the engine, a weak interior is like leaving out the ending. If GM hopes to tell a tale of reversing its 30-year market share slide, it will have to get the chapter on interiors absolutely right. ? ;D

Made subject more descriptive
I read that article this morning myself. It's about time! Although I like the interior of my Avalanche, It could be SO much better. However, it's still better than Fords, or have you seen the interior of the new Ram?... :D:
This article reminds me of an old joke.

You have a German, an Italian, and an American attending the unveiling of a never-before-seen automobile. When the cover is lifted:

The Geman first goes to take a look at the engine.
The Italian first checks out the interior.

As for the American- the first thing he checks is the sticker price.
I like my AV leather interior but a little wood should have been included. I may have to put some in myself.
I agree on the simulated wood dash. That is one of my next mods. ;D
I think it really picks up the interior. I just hope it will last more than a couple years. :cautious:
I guess I don't know what I'm missing. I like the Av's interior, and my wife thinks it's the most comfortable vehicle that she's ever been in! I'll admit to being an American car and GM loyalist, and haven't checked out the latest high end offerings from Europe and Japan (though I don't like my friends Honda CR-V or the new Lincoln Navigator much) . . . .

Now as for the crummy stock stereo . . . . there's an area that Chevy could work on!
brushed aluminum! thats what the avy needs in the interior department, also a bose system ('03)
IMO the stereo has been a "poor" area in the Chevy pick ups for a while, it's good to see them offer a better system in the 2003 models.
I love the interior on the Av....if I had really wanted all the deluxe lux...I think I would have opted for the Caddy version...but to be honest I have never been into Lux vehicles and can live happily without the bells and whistles....especially the hefty pricetag that goes with all of it....

Areas that I would improve overall would be the stock radio......everything else seems really nice the way it is... :B:
NJAV said:
I love the interior on the Av....if I had really wanted all the deluxe lux...I think I would have opted for the Caddy version...but to be honest I have never been into Lux vehicles and can live happily without the bells and whistles....especially the hefty pricetag that goes with all of it....

Areas that I would improve overall would be the stock radio......everything else seems really nice the way it is... :B:

I have to agree - the AV is not loaded - drive the AV for 18 hrs across country and the interior works very good.
Never once have I had to stop to stretch my legs, or because my rear-end was in pain...I have to admit the Av has one of the most comfortable creature features I have ever experienced.... :B: