A new leather upholstery solution developed by French supplier Faurecia could allow automakers to make more unique designs inside their vehicles and localize more of the production process.
Traditionally, wrapping an interior component, such as a door panel or center console, in leather or other material is an expensive and time-consuming process. It’s something that typically has to be done manually and can often result in seams that vary slightly from vehicle to vehicle as the material is sewn into place.
“There’s a trade-off between getting the seam right and then trying to round the corners,” said Shefic Khoury, vice president of interior engineering for Faurecia North America, a Forvia group company. “It’s easy to lose things a bit. It’s a very manual process that requires a lot of work.”
Faurecia’s new PREPO 3.0 solution is designed to change that. The leather, or artificial leather, that is wrapped around an interior component comes pre-lined, with the seam essentially attached to a plastic insert. That insert is then placed in the component and the material can be wrapped around the part.
The result is more consistency from vehicle to vehicle, Khoury said.
A traditional leather-wrapping operation could result in small vehicle-to-vehicle variations of about 2 millimeters on parts with complex 3D shapes, “which in terms of quality is questionable,” he said.
PREPO 3 reduces that variation to just 0.5 millimeters, Khoury said.
“It is no longer necessary to sacrifice design quality,” he said. “We offer the freedom to allow the same expectations and the same quality in any type of geometry. There is much more design freedom.”
Faurecia validated the technology in 2021 and its first customer was electric truck startup Rivian. Khoury did not disclose any other clients in the wings, but said “many more applications” are in the works.
PREPO allows automakers to rely less on simple, straight lines when it comes to interior design, he said.
“For example, if you look at most cars on the market, you don’t see a lot of stitch lines that cover and follow the shape of the instrument cluster because they wouldn’t want to sacrifice quality with variations from car to car,” he said. “That’s not a problem anymore”.
The new leather-wrapping process could also help companies reduce labor costs and the cycle time involved in wrapping a piece.