Classic Tatra gets Faurecia upgrade

  • 31-Mar-2008 05:38 EDT

Premium Attitude does away with the traditional center air vent setup in favor of one using an abstract-pattern grille that carries through the car’s front radiator grille design.

Brilliant black exterior paint with hints of shimmering purple makes this aged Czechoslovakian passenger sedan look brand new, but transforming this unique oldie into a focal point for modern interior technologies required 4 km (2.5 mi) of wiring and plenty of brainpower.

The Faurecia team charged with making the decades-old car an innovations showpiece included product planners, designers, and engineers. “All of the innovations displayed in the Premium Attitude were required to be what we call ‘sanity-checked’ by Faurecia’s engineering community,” said Norbert Bonhoff, the company’s Director of Innovation, R&D Interior Systems Product Group. Engineers ensured that none of Premium Attitude’s innovations were a ‘pure design vision’ since the team considered each innovation’s industrial and development feasibility, according to Bonhoff.

Faurecia chose a 1972 Tatra 603 to showcase its six major product lines, including interior-focused elements such as door panels, instrument panel and cockpit, and seats, said Nik Endrud, Director of Marketing and Product Planning North America for Faurecia. Selection of the classic Tatra presented Faurecia’s designers and technical wizards with an interior package akin to a present day E-segment car. After various Tatra 603 modifications—including removing the B-pillar, moving the C-pillar rearward 100 mm (4.0 in), replacing the hinged door with coach doors, and adding a drivetrain tunnel—Premium Attitude debuted at the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show.

The concept’s interior features a soon-to-launch soft airbag lid. Instead of packaging the airbag behind a metal or hard plastic lid, it is stowed behind a lid made of soft foam and a mesh liner. “These so-called soft airbag lids have one-half the opening force of today’s conventional counterpart,” Endrud said. “The reduced energy and the soft lid enable the airbag to be positioned snug to the windshield, which in turn frees up the valuable real estate in front of the occupant.” Faurecia’s soft airbag lid technology debuts in 2008 on select production vehicles in Europe and North America.

Teardrop-shaped vents are another interior innovation. “It’s all about the airflow, so this design—pioneered in the aircraft industry—means a diffused airflow delivery as well as lower noise levels,” said Endrud. The production-ready, smart air-vent system also integrates operational controls on the vent unit rather than at a central location on the instrument panel.

The seatbacks, door-panel inserts, and the rear package tray feature wood accents. “A new, proprietary wood process enables the large-scale interior trim surfaces. In simple terms, a wood-fiber blank is compression molded with a thin—less than 1.0 mm (0.04 in)—wood veneer. The result is a surface that is large, dynamic, and affordable,” said Endrud. The white oak wood, which was stained to make it resemble grey silk from certain viewing angles, is one of six validated veneers.

Conforming seat cushions enhance seat comfort. “When the door is opened, the driver’s seat cushion center is electrically elevated, and that improves ingress and egress,” Endrud said. “The cushion’s movements also can be programmed to coincide with the selected driving mode.”

The comfort factor is also evident on the door panel armrest design. The armrest can move up and down either by manual or power adjustment, said Endrud.

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