A car’s exterior design may be what first catches car buyers’ eyes, but it’s the look, feel and even smell of the interior that really matter in the thousands of kilometers of driving that they will do.
This is what Ford’s Asia Pacific YouTube account talks about in detail in a series of videos on testing interior materials. One is on interior smells, where Ford Asia Pacific Materials Engineer Manager Ashley Walsh said the company tries to make its cars smell pleasant to as many people as possible. As such, he said the over 100 materials that go into making an interior are odor-tested by placing these into jars and heated in an oven to simulate a car parked outside under the baking heat. These are then sniffed by “Approved Odor Assessors” in order to get the insights from a multitude of noses.
Another video is on interior durability. Walsh said everything that passengers would touch – ranging from drivers who hang their arms over the window to toddlers banging their toys against the door panels – is subjected to a battery of tests. One is the “five-finger scratch test,” where five simulated fingers apply different forces to attached metal scratchers that are run across an interior plastic to find out how much it would take to scratch it.
Next is the stretch-durability test, where a strip of fabric is pulled down by a weight. In order to pass, the fabric must return to its original size, simulating a seat cover that stays as tight as a trampoline even after being used like one. For people who are fond of putting pointy objects in the car, Walsh said Ford accounts for this with the “mace-snagging” test, where a strip of fabric is run on a roller with a dangling mace running over it.
Finally, the company does a resistance test, which rubs a sample of car fabric against the dyed fabrics used to make clothes to make sure that the bright, gray interior of an Escape, for example, doesn’t have blue, butt-shaped spots from over-dyed Divisoria denim pants over time. All of these tests may seem silly, but Walsh said these help customers get maximum resale value for their Fords.
But the true test of an interior, especially a fabric one, is how it can survive spills. Walsh said Ford hurls everything from engine grease to mud to preposterously named coffee drinks to find out if its interiors can handle being treated like a mobile living room through the “cleanability’ test, which places a contaminant over a piece of fabric and sees how easy it is to remove using standard cleaning procedures. Walsh said doing this makes sure that the interior materials that go into a Ford don’t wear too early.
So the next time you’re sitting in an Ecosport or a Focus with your “fully optioned” latte in hand, remember that scientists thousands of kilometers away worked day and night to make sure the interior can handle an inadvertent spill.