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Plastics assist designers with Chrysler 200 interior

By: Rhoda Miel

January 13, 2014

DETROIT — Chrysler Group LLC’s 2015 200 sedan is intended to be a flagship for the company, showing what is capable in engineering and manufacturing.

That also holds true for its interior, said Klaus Busse head of interior design for Chrysler, noting that it an area where the company is using new developments in production alongside new ideas in design.

“Look at the way we used wood this time,” Busse said during an interview following the 200’s introduction Jan. 13 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Busse pointed to the curving shape of the wood trim surrounding the instrument cluster.

“It used to be that we could only use wood in simple shapes. This is one complex, free flowing design.”

That design is capable, he said, because of improvements in production and engineering.

Interior suppliers have been developing ways to use natural products — including a thin veneer of wood — as an aesthetic covering which is married to the plastic substrate.

Chrysler’s adoption of it in the 200 allows it to echo what Busse called the “American design language” of allowing materials to show their true face — like the curved plywood in an Eames chair or the aluminum skin of an Airstream trailer.

“But this is very difficult to do,” he said.

For the past few car development cycles, Chrysler has co-located both designers and engineers within the same team, so they can combine their ideas on new projects as quickly and simply as possible

“What that means is that when we having some complication come up, it’s very easy for us to get management together and say: ‘Let’s compare notes here. Let’s see what we can do.”

During the previous model for the 200, Chrysler’s designers and engineers — along with key supplier Faurecia SA — won the 2011 Vehicle Engineering Team Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers for their cooperative work.

The co-location for the 200 and the Dodge Avenger allowed the teams to develop the interiors within 12 months, which is a sprint for the auto industry.

“The decision-making process was greatly sped up,” said Jay Hutchins, director of marketing and product planning for Faurecia North America.

For the 2015 model year of the 200, the combination of engineering and design came to the fore not only for the trim, but within interior packaging.

Chrysler has replaced the standard shift lever to a rotary dial for the 200. That freed up space in the center console for more storage, as well as an area to pass through long objects from the back to the front of the car.

With that space, the materials engineers, design team and suppliers combined ideas for a space that feels far more solid than the storage in the previous models. Busse said the team wanted it to feel as solid as furniture, with firm closures.

Structural plastics along with key soft-touch panels and trim created an expanded space.

“With every car, they always ask you, ‘What did you have to compromise on?’ With this, we didn’t have to fight for anything,” Busse said. “We could share the vision of this car and spend our time on executing our vision, and not fighting.

“At the end of the day, the key is a partnership of engineering and design.”