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Chevrolet Uses Science to Deliver Seat Comfort

  • Seat engineers use high-tech tools, real-world ride evaluations and customer feedback to fine-tune cushion contours and seat structures
  • Seat comfort is a top-ten purchase consideration for an SUV or midsize car in Thailand

BANGKOK, THAILAND – The seat engineers at General Motors (GM) may know more about how to keep customers’ backs and bottoms comfortable than a good Thai massage use. But instead of giving customers a hands-on massage these seat specialists conduct a variety of scientific tests to ensure that Chevrolet seats provide optimal comfort.

According to Chevrolet market research, seat comfort is a “top ten” consideration when customers in Thailand shop for an SUV or PPV, such as Captiva and Trailblazer, or midsize passenger car, such as Cruze.

It may come as no surprise that seat comfort is a priority given the extreme road congestion in Bangkok where 7 million registered vehicles crowd onto roadways designed to accommodate 1.6 million vehicles, according to 2012 data from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. As a result, the average speed of morning rush hour traffic in Bangkok is only 16.5 kilometers per hour, which can turn a 30-km commute into a 2-hour endurance test.

In a new study by British motor-oil company Castrol, Bangkok ranked eighth among the world's top 10 cities having the worst traffic, with 36 percent of an average driver’s travel time in Bangkok spent in idling mode.

“When you’re driving in Bangkok’s rush hour traffic, few things are more important than a comfortable seat – this is what our customers have told us. We’ve listened to them and responded by providing seats that are not only comfortable, but durable as well,” said Teerawoot Mumanajit, GM Thailand Interior Product Engineer.

Depending on the vehicle program, GM seat engineers from around the world may work together using high-tech tools, real-world ride evaluations and customer feedback to fine-tune cushion contours and seat structures.

Early in a seat’s development, engineers may use “Oscar,” a three-dimensional, mannequin-like simulation tool for determining the overall dimensional layout of a car’s interior to ensure optimal space and comfort for occupants. According to Chevrolet market research, 95 percent of Colorado customers in Thailand consider good legroom and comfortable passenger seats essential attributes in a pickup truck.

Chevrolet seat engineers may also use digital pressure-mapping technology that measures a person’s back-side pressure distribution over the seat surface, creating a map with more than 4,600 data points. The information is transferred to a computer that generates graphics illustrating how occupants sit in the seat statically or while driving.

In compliment to seat-pressure mapping, engineers may also use a rear-end test robot that simulates the effects of seat force and deflection and helps determine if a seat is too firm or too soft.

But GM seat engineers don’t rely exclusively on machines – they also put real butts in seats, by conducting seat ride evaluations with volunteers, spending hundreds of hours logging thousands of miles to ensure they get sufficient feedback on seat prototypes.

“Providing Chevrolet customers with the most-comfortable seat possible is something we take very seriously because comfort is so important to the overall driving experience and customer satisfaction is one of our highest priorities,” said Timothy Brademeyer, GM Global Director for Seat Development.