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Durability of Buick Interior Materials: Tested and Confirmed

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Durability of Buick Interior Materials

Diana Foghel, a Materials Test Engineer, applies insect repellant solution to leather during testing.

If there’s any doubt in your mind about the durability of Buick interior materials, let the General Motors Materials Test and Engineering group sooth your worries. According to GM, this group is responsible for guaranteeing the durability of Buick interior materials against all kinds of enemies: sunlight, perspiration, and even the sunscreen and bug repellants that can be transferred from passengers’ skin.

The engineering group conducts a wide range of tests to ensure that a vehicle’s carpet, seat upholstery (leather and fabric), trim (wood and metal), plastics, and other materials are all strong against fading, premature wear, and discoloration. These experiments can take months to complete.

General Motors Materials Test and Engineering Photos

Durability of Buick Interior Materials

Vicki Reece, a Materials Test Engineer, and Diana Foghel, prepare leather samples in the GM Weathering Lab.

“Our group tests for durability and resistance to natural and artificial elements on materials you see and don’t see inside your Buick,” explained Doug Pickett, engineering group manager for the Materials Test and Engineering group. “We test not only for sun exposure or humidity, but commonly spilled things like ketchup and mustard and even stronger substances like sweat, sunscreen and DEET, a chemical often found in bug repellent.”

The tests seem kind of silly when you read about them, but they are effective. For example, to see how well protective coatings offer resistance to things like sunscreen, the testers apply the substances and then bake them in an oven. In another strange test, lab engineers will put materials under the equivalent of a tanning booth light for several weeks to study the effects of ultraviolet light.

“The simulated UV light allows us to do the testing much faster and it allows us to do more experiments to improve the materials,” said Pickett. “But to absolutely confirm the durability, we have found we still need to use the natural sunlight test.”

After initial tests in the lab, GM takes the materials out to tackle natural sunlight in Arizona in rotating glass boxes. The engineers also perform sweat tests with a synthetic perspiration solution (ick!) used on places in the vehicles that have high skin contact, like knobs and the steering wheel.

Durability of Buick Interior Materials

A rotating glass light box tests a leather dashboard for weathering.

“While it is easy to make leather resistant to chemicals or abrasion, it is very difficult to find the balance of durability while maintaining the desirable look and feel that a Buick customer expects,” said Pickett. “The texture is an important factor, so it can’t be too hard, too slick or too sticky.”

Just 13 engineers make up the crucial GM Materials Test and Engineering group. Their work on Buick vehicles is highly important.