Plastics in transport design

I read the excellent cover article on plastics this morning and this paragraph stuck out:

An obstacle to the advancement of this trend lies in the fact that many industries still see plastic parts as in need of covering up. The automotive industry in particular, Dent notes, is “really annoying” in this capacity. The ABS used in the interiors of most cars today is typically painted or otherwise coated, in an effort to get higher levels of finish. While this gives the designers of car interiors great control over these surfaces, it also renders them fragile. If a brushed steel or wood surface is lightly scratched, over time this becomes a patina; part of the overall look that adds to its character. Painted plastic, observes Dent, “looks nasty when it scratches, and just gets worse the more it happens.”

Can anyone think of transport design situations where the designers used plastic in an honest manor? Can anyone think of scratched plastics in transport that look good?

Not too up to speed on my interiors, but as you probably know plastics are becoming much more common on vehicle exteriors. Yes these plastics are also painted or otherwise treated. However this has probably more to do with the desire to colour match the plastic to the painted metal parts. Perhaps in the future this will change if design takes a slightly more graphic approach, like the Smart for instance.

The reason i really wanted to reply however is because as a vehcile exterior designer myself i have for a long time been interested in the application of soft rubber to certain elements of a vehicle exterior. In my mind (and i am sure many of you will disagree) used correctly then rubber could have the abilty to grow “in character” with scratches and blemishes. More so than plastic.

Its a very interesting subject though. What exactly is it that means leather, and wood gain character over time, yet plastic “just gets damaged”.

Melonball: when you mention using soft rubber as opposed to plastics, are you refering to the consistent color of rubber throughout the part as opposed to a plastic that may have a surface finish that is different from the interior?

Actually, I’ll have to start looking at Honda Elements more closely from now on. That is the second vehicle, I can think of, that used unpainted plastics for large areas of the vehicle. I’ll also post over on a Honda forum that I frequent. I’m curious if anyone has replaced their scratched fenders for new ones…hmmm.

On vehicle interiors…no one can remember even one creative solution involving honest plastics?

hmmm…can’t think of any for transportation, but in contract furniture, seating often uses exposed plastics.