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Seats keep pace with vehicle advances

Published:Sunday | December 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
The seats of a 2014 BMW M235I. - File
A personalised car seat. - File
The Corvette Stingray shows off its eye-catching seats at the ADA Motor Show 2014, held last month at the National Arena. - File
The inside of the 2015 Nissan Altima. - Ian Allen/Staff photographer

Chad Bryan, Staff Reporter

The seats are often the first major point of contact someone has with a vehicle's interior and, with modernisation, they have been becoming increasingly comfortable.

Seat technology and consumers' expectation for features have been steadily evolving since the 1980s, when many seats were blocks of foam covered in fabric or vinyl. Then, the adjustment options available were typical manually moving seats forward, adjusting the angle of the back and raising or lowering the height of the headrests.

Now, there is a demand for more seat comfort and control options, which is fuelling a battle among makers to supply futuristic seats which sometimes appear like something from a movie.

Automakers are starting to see high-tech seats as an opportunity to make a good first impression on passengers and potential purchasers, who demand seating which have a distinctive appearance, comfort and features.

These demands are propelling seat makers to transform the traditional, mundane-looking hunks of covered foam into creature comforts with motorised lumbar and height adjustments, seat warmers and custom-stitched leather covers. These options, though once available only on luxury cars, are turning up as options on compact cars and pickups.

Attention-grabbing seats that offer a massage, or deliver a warning vibration when a driver veers out of his lane are good sells. The Toyota Boshoku Corporation makes seats that vibrate when drivers stray from their traffic lanes. Instead of a beep that might alarm or possibly frighten passengers, the vibration provides a more discreet reminder.

However, manufacturers realise that they need to give motorists a choice of adjustments without overwhelming them, or even misuse adjustments.

Industry experts say seats are likely to become even more complex and plush as time progresses.