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Carmakers introduce dye-, stain-proof interiors

June 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Blue jeans may be comfortable to wear while you're driving, but denim can take a toll on your car's interior. Car makers are using new technology to keep the blue jean dye from transferring into car seats.

Few things look better in a new car than light-colored leather seats. The problem is they often don't stay good-looking for long. The seats can develop a dark haze to them from a source you might not have thought of.

"We get this sort of blue-ish gray stain right where the driver slides in and out of the driver seat. And it turned out, we figured out it's from the indigo in your blue jeans," said Paul Williamsen, national manager of the Lexus College research facility.

Denim jeans are purposely designed to fade as they age, but they end up depositing their dye where you don't want it.

"On a lighter-colored leather you can get this blue-ish, gray-ish tint on the driver seat. That's from the indigo in your jeans," said Williamsen.

Lexus found that many buyers shied away from light-colored interiors due to the fact that the seat cushions would often turn dark.

So starting this year, all their light leather seats are made with new stain-resistant hides.

"It's not a top-coating, it's actually part of our tanning process for the leather," said Williamsen.

The leather package on the Lexus CT-200h hybrid is a $1,300 option. On other models, the leather is standard, but of course you're still paying for it, so it's nice to know that with that money being spent, it won't start looking bad real soon due to stains.

But what about cars that are not as upscale that have fabric interiors? Technology is helping them as well.

For example, Chrysler came up with a special material for its cloth seats that repels stains.

For a family car, that can make it a lot easier to care for. Almost as important, the fabric resists odors too. Considering a minivan or SUV is likely to be transporting everything from fast food to soiled diapers, that trait alone could be a blessing.

The new Lexus leather came about after hearing from denim-wearing customers who were disappointed in how their seats started looking.

"And our challenge is to make this durable as we can so that it looks great over the entire ownership of the vehicle," said Williamsen.

We often think of technology in new cars as gadgets and gizmos, but technology is now available to keep seats looking good longer.

Now the auto industry might want to focus on developing stain-proof carpeting too.

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