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Automotive Interior Trim: Materials, Types, and Processes



Mar. 07, 2024
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Automotive Interior Trim: Materials, Types, and Processes


Trim is one of the most sought-after aspects of a vehicle- why else would manufacturers sell the same model of car with multiple different trim levels?

What are the types of automotive interior trim and how are they manufactured? Read on to learn!

Types of Automotive Interior Trim

Interior car trims are all of the parts of your vehicle that are more decorative than functional. Its primary purpose is to make the inside of the car into a comfortable and warm environment. Examples of trim may include a leather steering wheel, door lining, car roof lining decorations, seat trim, or a sun visor mirror.

The common denominator between all of these types of trim is that they’re aesthetically motivated. They do serve a practical purpose such as insulating your car to trap heat. Such as keeping hands from burning on the wheel from the sun or preventing the vehicle’s roof from water damage. However, most people consider them to be a more decorative aspect of your car that makes the interior flashy and modern.

The Top Automotive Trim Materials

Since there are so many items that qualify as interior trim, there are a wide variety of materials used. Some of the most common include:

  • Leather (steering wheel lining, seat coverings, glove compartment exteriors)
  • Vinyl and faux leather (cost-effective alternatives to leather that many manufacturers are using)
  • Fabric (the lining of your car ceiling, felt inside cup holders, fabric mats on the floor of your vehicle)
  • Suede (soft steering wheel covers, seat cushion exteriors)
  • Wood (to decorate linings and door panels)

How Are These Materials Manufactured?

Interior trim parts are extremely diverse and therefore are manufactured in many different ways. Professionals will come up with new ideas for trim parts and test principles before manufacturing. This ensures that each part has a certain level of functionality as well as aesthetic appeal.

From there, the materials that best suit the part will be gathered and molded into the appropriate shape. From two-shot injection molding to variable temperature molding, there are many different ways that small pieces can be inextricably molded together. Once that’s done, in-mold decoration will be applied and the piece will be allowed to cool.

Trim parts may be installed before sent to the dealer, but others are sold as aftermarket products. Therefore, simply needing to be installed in the vehicle to complete the process.

Get Started Servicing Your Vehicle

While there are a lot of parts that go into the functionality of your vehicle, trim is just as important in a different way. After all, no one wants to drive in a car that’s uncomfortable to sit in or uninsulated against extreme temperatures.

Contact us for a quote on how much it will cost to manufacture the automotive interior trim parts you need. We work with a variety of car manufacturers and are therefore happy to tailor your part to the specific vehicle that you are designing and manufacturing.

After paying attention to the exterior details of your vehicle, you should concentrate on the interior. Car interior material is one of the most used parts of a vehicle. Also, it’s the main section that contributes to elegance and comfort while driving. Ideally, car seat material keeps things classy behind the wheel and thus improves your riding experience.

Types of Car Seat Material

When it comes to car seat material, your lifestyle and aesthetic preference highly influence your seat choice. For example, if you’re an outdoor person who mainly engages in muddy or dusty activities, you’d want a durable car seat material that’s easy to clean. On the other hand, if you spend most of your time in your car, you’ll more likely concentrate on the comfort the car interior material brings and the aesthetics.

Additionally, budget heavily influences your decision on a car seat material. While a specific material may be visually appealing, it may not suit your budget or sustain your daily routine. Luckily, there is a wide range of car interior materials, so you can pick something with a similar visual appeal as your desired material but at a considerable price. Below are the most common car seat materials and the advantages and disadvantages of each :

1. Alcantra

It’s also known as Ultrasuede. It has the same visual appearance and feel as microsuede. However, the added advantage is that it’s flame retardant. Notably, it’s one of the least common types of car seat materials and is manufactured by a single producer in Italy.

In recent years, it has become increasingly popular in mid-range cars.


  • It has a luxurious feel and is aesthetically pleasing.
  • It has a high friction coefficient, reducing slips during fierce driving
  • It’s flame retardant and thus provides an added safety benefit.


  • It’s expensive and hard to find. Mainly, the material is used in high-end performance vehicles.
  • It’s hard to clean and may not be suitable if you have kids, as it might not withstand daily family wear.

2. Leather

Leather is a highly popular car seat material that most car owners want in their vehicles. It has an elegant look and is highly durable, so it’s ideal for daily use. However, leather prices continue to surge, and it may not be an affordable car seat material for most people. Essentially, leather in most luxury cars is top-quality and usually hand-stitched, which increases the cost.

Even so, considering it’s one of the most stylish and functional car interior materials, it’s worth the money. Therefore, you’d want to use it for your car’s interior if you can afford it. Most importantly, note that leather can crack if exposed to high temperatures, particularly during hot weather. In that case, you should do regular conditioning to prevent it.


  • A leather seat provides a luxurious feel.
  • It lasts longer as it responds well to wear and tear.
  • It’s easy to maintain. You can purchase car conditioners from an auto parts store for frequent conditioning. This basic maintenance keeps your leather car in good condition and can last a lifetime.


  • It’s costly.
  • Leather car seats can be very hot, especially during summer.
  • It can be easily damaged if you use the wrong cleaning methods and products. For example, excessive rubbing may damage surface coloration.

3. Vinyl

It’s also referred to as leatherette or faux leather. It’s made to look like leather through specific methods like embossing but doesn’t involve the use of animal products. It’s now prevalent even in luxury cars as most car owners opt for unique vegan options for leather seats.


  • It can be ideal if you want the look of leather but don’t use animal products.
  • It gives a smooth appearance if you want a non-upholstered surface.
  • It’s a durable and high-quality fabric upholstery.
  • It’s easy to wipe clean.
  • It’s available in various colors and is thus suitable for different car models.


  • It can only last for about ten years
  • Doesn’t breathe well and can get sticky when exposed to high temperatures

4. Polyester

It’s a microsuede car seat material made of polyester. It gives a vehicle a suede look and feel. Also, it’s one of the materials with the softest surfaces.  


  • Provides a luxurious suede look.
  • It breathes easily, so it doesn’t get warm or sticky during warm days or hot weather.


  • It collects dirt easily, absorbs odors, and catches stains. Therefore, it’s difficult to clean.
  • It can get stiff or hard if cleaned wrongly.

5. Nylon

It’s the most common car seat material used in fabric upholstery. It may not provide the luxurious look and feel other materials give, but it is still elegant and offers driver comfort. The added advantage of nylon is that it’s sturdier and more resistant to dirt and stains than other fabric options.


  • Nylon seats are budget-friendly, so most car owners can afford them.
  • They are fairly sturdy.
  • Repels stains easily.


  • May stain or absorb odors.

How to Clean Different Types of Car Upholstery

Since you’re more likely to spend a lot of time in your car, from driving to work, going grocery shopping, or taking your kids to school, your car seat material must be constantly cleaned. Notably, there are specific cleaning methods, agents, and materials for every type of car upholstery. Here’s how to clean the different types:

1. Nylon Car Upholstery

Use a vacuum to take off loose dirt or dust from the seats. You can then mix a mild detergent with hot water, dip a sponge and scrub the fabric surfaces. Afterward, dip another sponge in cold water and scrub the detergent off the car seat surface. Your seats are adequately cleaned at this stage, and you can leave them to dry.

2. Vinyl Upholstery

You can wipe vinyl seats with a clean damp cloth since it’s fairly waterproof. Ideally, you’re not limited to using a cleaner specifically designed for vinyl for stubborn stains.

3. Faux Leather Upholstery

Remove loose dirt or dust using a feather duster, then proceed to use a vacuum. Mix detergent with the cleaning water but ensure you don’t produce bubbles. Afterward, dip a clean cloth into the mixture, squeeze to remove excess water, and use it to wipe the car seats. You can then remove the detergent with another damp cloth.

Finally, wipe the wet faux leather surface with a fresh dry cloth. You can use a faux leather cleaning agent or a toothbrush for stubborn residue.

4. Polyester Upholstery

Using a wrung-out clean cloth, wash the seats with a microsuede-specific cleaning agent. However, if you can’t access one, use a low-PH soap like a baby wash. While at it, ensure you don’t wet the material, as polyester can get water stains. Also, you can opt for steam cleaning.

5. Leather Upholstery

Use a clean cloth to first take off lingering dust, oils, and other dirt on the leather surface. Afterward, apply upholstery conditioner and rub it into the leather material. Such conditioners usually contain gentle stain removers and hydrating agents like neatsfoot oil to clean and protect your leather surfaces. Also, park your car in the shade to avoid exposing the conditioner to UV light.  

Automotive Interior Trim: Materials, Types, and Processes

Types of Car Interior Material



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