By Kristin Varela on June 26, 2012
If you hadn't read anything about Dodge's new Dart, you're doing a great job of avoiding coverage of the brand's first compact sedan since the Neon. It's an extremely important model for a company that has seen success with minivans, SUVs and large sedans but not much else. While many of us (me included) have a preconceived notion of Dodge being a manly man's brand, you may be surprised to hear that the Dart's interior has a decidedly feminine influence.
No, it's not pink. La Shirl Turner, the head of Chrysler's Color and Trim studio, is an inspiring and level-headed mom of three boys, with the youngest in preschool and the oldest at college. By necessity, she's an advocate for durable, family-friendly interior surfaces that don't sacrifice design appeal, and they've found their way into the Dart. You know that favorite pair of jeans that hide flaws of all varieties, go with everything and simply last forever? Why not make seat upholstery out of them? The Dart has 14 available interior color and fabric schemes, including Black Denim upholstery in the SE model.
Dodge is re-entering a compact car segment that encompasses about 15% of the new-car market. The company has its work cut out for it, trying to appeal to Millennials and Boomers and everyone in between.
"The Black Denim material [on the SE interior] shows that you can have a subtle, cutting-edge material at an entry-level price," Turner said. "The Rallye interior is unique to that model and gives those who want to be more bold the option to do so by using splashes of color on the main seat-feature fabric and the interior door trim pockets. This is where the Black and Ruby Red or Diesel Gray and Citrus Peel (pictured below) interiors will appeal to those buyers who are bolder, a little more fashion forward and want their car to reflect that."
"The Limited model with the leather interior can be more of a traditional interior for the buyer that isn't as interested in standing out, but wants a level of class or sophistication versus boldness," she said.
The idea for the Diesel Gray and Citrus Peel upholstery with bold contrast stitching came from a design-inspiration-scouting trip to a local shopping mall by Turner and her team. When walking past a department store's handbag section, one of the designers saw a bag that caught her eye.
"There was a line of handbags and I was intrigued by the leather material usage and colors. A member of my team came across one handbag, and she was instantly looking at the stitching treatment, which was a dual-stitch but the thread was one color for one row and a different color for the second row. She was impressed by how cool it appeared, and I immediately looked at her and said 'Dodge.' Each interior trim level on the Dart has a great story behind it from the researching of different lifestyles and products that I came across," she said.
Her work isn't done though. Turner's ideal vehicle "would allow me to change my interior mood with color and music because it could sense what I was feeling when I sat in my seats. I could push a button and — voila! — I have cool fabric during the week. For a romantic weekend with my husband or girls' night out, I could have a one-of-a-kind custom leather seat or something bad-to-the-bone for driving to work if I am in 'warrior mode.'"
If you could talk directly to a vehicle's interior designer, what would you ask for in your next new car? Tell us in the comment section below.
Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars. Email Kristin