The Importance of a quality interior

It is said that the average American spends about 3 hours a day in their car or about 4 years in total over a lifetime. That’s a long time, so shouldn’t your car have a quality interior? After all that’s where you are when you’re in the car.

2011 Hyundai Elantra. Notice the contrasting colors and
dynamic design of the interior.
This then begs the question why do manufactures still insist on putting the interior of a car on the back burner, I mean after all when your in a car you’re not just sitting there. You touch a variety of different areas. Namely the steering wheel, radio controls, door panel, gear lever and center console. So at least in every car these areas should be done in nice materials, be well made, and look good. I work as a car detailer (most of the time) and that means I get to drive and clean a wide variety of cars and many of the cars I get into aren’t very nice (other than being dirty). There are 3 big manufactures who are the worst, those being GM, Toyota, and Chrysler. There are two possible reasons the quality just isn’t there, one being cost, and the other being a lack of focus or care. Cost is the one most people tend to argue but I don’t think that’s it. You see a once little Korean car company called Hyundai which produces “value” oriented cars, doesn't seem to have problem producing a relatively nice interior in their cars. Let's also keep in mind Hyundai is a much smaller company and therefore has less money for R&D and less money to hire designers, so shouldn't this be the other way around then?

Chevrolet Impala interior. Cheap looking dash design large
chunks of cheap silver painted trim and it doesn't make you
look twice does it? 
 Upon entering the aforementioned cars I’m surrounded by cheap plastics that don’t fit  well together, steering wheels with slippery material, and door panels with hard plastic. It makes me honestly wonder if anyone drives these cars before they sell them. Now I’m not expecting a Volvo or Lexus interior but why would I want to rest my arm on a hard uncomfortable door panel? If anything the parts of the vehicle I have to touch to operate the car should be well constructed comfortable to use and made of decent, long lasting materials. Another issue being, many of these interiors don’t look good. They are either all one color or use a lot of silver painted parts which doesn’t look any better. Contrasting colors are important in an interior but if you look at an interior in a more expensive car you will note that in general chrome and silvers are used more sparingly. In a lot of these cars if they put some silver trim in it goes all in one spot and usually is made of the same cheap plastic but painted a different color.

Lexus IS interior. Notice contrasting colors, no cheap silver trim spanning
the dash and chrome used sparingly. 

If I could say a few things to an interior designer creating an interior for a cheaper car I would tell them to focus on the parts that people touch most. Use good materials on things such as the steering wheel, gear lever, doors, and center console. Use trims and contrasting colors but don’t put a lot of it in one place, spread it out. Chromes and silver paints should be used sparingly and only to accent something. Also contrasting stitching on the steering wheel and seats makes a big difference.

Generally creating a good interior is about creating a simple one. If there's too many things going on it gets too busy for the eye. Just ensure things flow smoothly and the important places are made out of quality stuff.

Yes! An improvement. The 2011 Chevy Cruze.
Now that newer generations of cars are coming out we're starting to see some improvement from these manufactures but it should have been done sooner and as a result they are starting to suffer already as we see companies such as Hyundai and Kia removing buyers from Toyota, Honda, GM, Chrysler and Ford.

I must say if it weren't for the koreans stepping it up I don't think we'd be seeing as much of a change as we are now.  So if anything we have to koreans to thank for being so competitive, they very much deserve the success they're getting.