What is a car made of? Your first instinct may be to say metal, but that’s not quite as true as it used to be…
Modern-day motors are as riddled with plastic as they ever have been and not all of us are convinced that this is a good thing. Manufacturers may argue this is great for keeping costs low, improving safety and reducing weight but no matter what they say, we generally don’t associate plastic with quality. Despite this, here we all are driving around in our plastic-fantastic automobiles! So it’s time to pause for a minute and ask ourselves, have modern cars become too plastic?
Plastic grilles and fake air intakes
We can’t deny the many advantages of plastic over metal but we can say that virtually all modern cars feature a grille made of the cheap material. It doesn’t matter if you own a Ford Fiesta or a Mercedes-AMG C63, chances are your grille is mostly, if not all, plastic. Even if it looks like chrome, it’s likely just plastic wrapped in fake chrome.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t make much difference to most of us but there’s always that feeling in the back of your mind that your car, which you paid thousands of pounds for, deserves more than a plastic face.
A little less excusable are the fake air intakes which seem to be pointlessly stuck onto the front of our cars. BMW are particularly guilty of this, Audi and Mercedes are also repeat offenders and the current Honda Civic is a perfect example of stuck-on, non-functional fake air intakes. Is this what car styling has evolved to?
In most cases, you look at a car’s bumper or trim and you wouldn’t be able to tell whether it’s plastic, metal or even fine china. That’s because the part is painted to the same finish that the rest of the car is. Unfortunately, some car manufacturers think it’s ok to “show off” their plastic bumpers by leaving them in their defining matte grey form.
This can be seen on many cars such as the Kia Sportage, Range Rover Evoque and the Mercedes GLA, just to name a few. Do you wish they made plastic less obvious or are you contempt with grey plastic trim?
Interiors that scratch easy
Plastics have been prominent in interiors for decades but that doesn’t mean we like them. Not only can they look rather drab but they’re usually as scratch resistant as a camera lens. The infamous “piano black” finish (gloss black plastic) not only leaves your interior looking like a fingerprint-covered crime scene, but is also soft enough to be scratched by a soft tissue blowing in the wind. After just one year’s use, your car’s plastic will make any potential buyers think that the car was owned by Edward Scissorhands himself.
I may end up eating my words here but even fake carbon fibre is an improvement upon matte or gloss finish plastic!
Plastic in supercars
Using plastic in sports cars may make a tremendous amount of sense due to the lightweight nature of the material but when your whip costs more than the average house, I’m sure you don’t want the bumpers, grilles and body panels to be made of it (and you certainly don’t want to be seeing it in the interior). Name any supercar of the last 10 years and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one without a fully plastic grille at the least.
To add to the insult, if you damage these plastic pieces they’ll end up costing more than a Ford Ka to replace or repair. Whether it’s a multi-million pound Ferrari or an ultra-powerful McLaren, it doesn’t matter if it looks like it was carved by the gods themselves, the fact is it’s just as plastic as the toy model version.
Benefits of plastic in cars
Some of us may miss the “good old days” of when cars were apparently forged of hard, dwarven steel in the depths of an erupting volcano. Well surprisingly, this never happened. Plastics are not all that different and in many ways, are far superior.
They don’t rust (which is a very significant advantage), they don’t weigh nearly as much, they’re softer and safer and they don’t cost as much.This leaves us with our modern, plastic-clad cars running more efficiently, costing less and being safer in accidents. So other than the appearance, we don’t really have much to complain about!
What are your thoughts on plastic in cars? Let us know in the comments