Final Inspection

As Seen in Automaker Conference Rooms

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Watch-it-come-clean demos aren’t limited to TV spots.

Mark Williams doesn't do TV spots showing how stains amazingly come out of Alcantara’s high-end material used in automotive interiors.

But he’s ready if he had to do such an oh-wow ad for the Italian supplier he represents in Detroit. He’s done a run-through, as it happens.

It stems from luxury brand Lincoln asking him to do a presentation. Not a typical one with slides or charts, but instead a demo evocative of those TV commercials in which energetic pitchmen purposely stain a piece of fabric, then get it clean again thanks to a spot remover or the recuperative attributes of the material itself.

Williams, president of the Campbell Company, got a call from a Lincoln person who told him, “Come over and show us how ink washes out of Alcantara.”

He was game. But he figured he should do a trial run just to make sure how easily ink comes out of the suede-like polymer material featured on seats and elsewhere inside luxury vehicles such as Maseratis, Ferraris, Porsches and a couple of top-trim domestic models.

So the night before his scheduled performance, he put pen to a cashmere-color Alcantara swath. Then he started scribbling. Then scrubbing. Abracadabra. The ink disappeared.  

“I must say, it came out pretty fast,” Williams tells me over dinner with Eugenio Lolli, who likes his job as Alcantara’s senior area manager in North America, in part, because America fascinated him as a boy in Italy.

Williams repeated his clean act the next day in Dearborn.  He might have ended it by saying: “If you act now, you’ll get two for the price of one. Operators are standing by.” But he left that part out. Probably just as well.

Alive and well is the old saw, “Don’t just tell me, show me.” Show and tell works, whether at carnival midway booths, in TV late-night ads, on dealership floors or before gatherings of purchasing agents.    

Here’s another example from Dominik Beckman, who heads global marketing for German auto materials supplier Benecke-Kaliko.

He sometimes uses good old compare-for-yourself presentations when showing prospective customers the company’s compound materials Benova and Acella. They’re touted as eco-friendlier, lighter-weight alternatives to leather for car seats.

“We’ll put our products and leather side by side and say, ‘Can you tell the difference?’” Beckman tells me at the 2014 WardsAuto Interiors Conference.

But leather emits a distinctive odor. Can’t someone tell the difference from that alone?  Not really. Benecke-Kaliko offers an option that makes seats smell like leather. So, show and smell works too.

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WardsAuto editors share insights and observations on the global auto industry.

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David E. Zoia

As Editorial Director, I oversee much of what goes into WardsAuto.com, enjoying a ringside seat that lets me observe up close just about every facet of the industry worldwide. I have covered the...

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James Amend is an associate editor at WardsAuto.com, covering day-to-day business and product news at General Motors. He also leads coverage of regulatory and environmental issues, as well as the...
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