Government agencies mandate fire-resistance standards for fabrics used in modes of transportation; however, design aesthetics cannot be regulated. So, aside from the first priority of safety, what do fabricators’ customer want in the interiors of their automobiles, buses, trains and planes?
Ron Larabie, president of Dallas-based JetSet Interiors, says his customers rank weight at the top of the list. Durability, water and stain resistance, and comfort/soft hand also are important. Aesthetics fall in the midrange of criteria, while antimicrobial factors are low priority for them. As for cost efficiency, it ranks high for charter fleets, medium for corporate planes, and low for private aircraft owners.
For Sand Sea and Air Interiors of Puerto Rico, cost is “almost always a consideration,” owner Terri Madden says. Durability, water and stain resistance, aesthetics, and comfort/soft hand also rank high. Antimicrobial properties aren’t consequential, she says, “except for one person who transported medical patients.”
Sidney Locke, director of strategic marketing and communication for Sage Automotive Interiors, says that comfort/soft hand is of utmost importance among the Greenville, S.C.-based company’s customers, with aesthetics, durability and cost following in that order.
“We know that consumers are increasingly looking at the degree of recycled content in all products they buy, including vehicles,” Locke says. “The significance of sustainability to the fabric varies by OEM. We offer options for recycled content when that is of interest and are especially proud of our Dinamica® ecological suede.”
Nancy Citti, president of Bergen Upholstery Inc. in Teterboro, N.J., says she wishes that sustainability took a more important role in the transportation fabric industry. She says she likes fabric from La France Industries of La France, S.C., that is made from recycled plastic water bottles and Camira’s Defender treatment, which adds antibacterial, antifungal and antistain properties that make fabrics last longer.
“Durability is definitely a factor,” she says.
John-Paul Paonessa, marketing manager of Chicago-based Freedman Seating Co., gives customer priorities in this order: cost, durability, comfort/soft hand, weight, antimicrobial properties, water/stain resistance, aesthetics and sustainability.
The list for Tapis Corp. of Armonk, N.Y., follows a similar lineup, according to Jason Estes, director of sales: cost, durability, weight, comfort, ease of cleaning, water/stain resistance, aesthetics, and sustainability and antimicrobial properties.
Chuck Lueck, owner of The Recovery Room in Panama City Beach, Fla., serves the automotive and aviation markets. For his automobile clientele, cost is the most important factor, followed in order by durability, aesthetics, comfort, and water and stain resistance. Among aviation customers, the ranking is durability, comfort, aesthetics, cost, water and stain resistance, weight and antimicrobial properties.
As for cost, Lueck is blunt: “If I am dealing with the right customer, cost is not on their list.”
And fire retardance is such a must that, Lueck says, “If a customer requests a fabric lacking fire retardance, I don’t want their business.”