Customizing your interior1

Customizing your interior
By: James B. Treece is industry editor for Automotive News

SEMA, that annual extravaganza of customized autos, is going to get even more exuberant.

A few weeks ago, Automotive News reported on a new exterior side lighting technology from Magna International Inc.: www.autonews.com/article/20100628/OEM06/306289968/1143

It shines light on the ground beside a car from LED bulbs placed underneath the front and rear door handles.

Magna's light can project a logo -- like the famous Bat Signal.

That provides an improved lighting surface compared with lamps placed under exterior mirrors. But the real benefit is that the lights also can shine Bat signal-style logos on the ground.

I can imagine members of Steeler Nation wanting to beam the logo of their favorite Pittsburgh football team onto the parking lot ground before Monday Night Football. That'd be way cooler than a plain old bumper sticker.

Now you can pick your own interior.

Now interiors specialist International Automotive Components has come up with an interior innovation along the same customizing lines.

At various places on the interior of a car - say, on the side of your door -- there are horizontal strips that typically are designed to match the rest of the instrument panel, whether fake wood or some form of textured plastic. Today, the factory decides what that should look like. But why shouldn't that be your call? And why should it match the rest of the interior?

IAC has developed a way to place any design you want on that strip. It places the decorative design on top of an injection-molded substrate, which can be translucent with a backlight enhancing the image, and then covers it with a clear overmolded layer. Known as DeepClear, the decorative appliqué technology means that if the design can be printed, it can be put on the interior of your door.

The designs I saw during a recent visit to one of IAC's r&d centers ranged from delicate Japanese washi paper to a not-exactly-delicate photo of barbed wire.

You may think that this opens the way to jarring interiors. A consumer might combine a refined leather instrument panel with images of skulls or Satan worship or sappy pictures of his grandchildren. But what offends you might appeal to the guy with five tattoos and six body piercings.

Let a thousand customizing flowers bloom.

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com.