The 2021 Buick GL6 received a mid-cycle refresh that included a completely redesigned interior with a new driver-oriented dual display screen and the addition of a 48V mild-hybrid powertrain. Those weren’t the only changes that were applied to the Chinese market people mover, though, as it also features a revolutionary new interior material from Kraton called Injection Molded Soft-Skin (IMSS).
Kraton says its new IMSS material uses Hydrogenated Styrenic Block Copolymers (HSBC). Unlike the traditional PVC-based soft skin materials that are often seen in automotive applications, HSBC polymers allow injection molding of large, thin-walled soft skin parts like instrument panels. In addition, these materials “provide lower odor, fogging, VOCs, better aging, subsequently improved safety performance, and lower specific gravity,” the company says. They also contain no added plasticizer, phthalates, or cross-linking agents, making them a bit more environmentally friendly as well.
“SAIC-GM has been committed to the application of innovative materials technology to provide consumers with a more comfortable and environmentally friendly driving experience,” a director at the SAIC-GM technical automotive center said. “Compared with traditional PVC skin, IMSS can further improve the interior environment and reduce odor and VOC concentration in the passengers’ compartment. Being the first company in the world to apply this technology underscores the importance SAIC-GM places on the consumer experience.”
Kraton says its IMSS material helps reduce the manufacturing time by up to one-fifth over a typical PVC soft skin material, which is important given the rising popularity of soft-touch surfaces in vehicle interiors in place of hard plastics. The Buick GL6 is the first-ever vehicle to feature mass-produces Kraton IMSS material and the company expects more car models to utilize the more eco-friendly material in the near future. The company also says that it has “established technology licenses with several other premier compounders worldwide to make this technology available to all automobile manufacturers,” as its adoption in the industry becomes more widespread in the coming years. That means that even if Kraton doesn’t have an existing supplier relationship with a certain OEM, it will still be able to use the new material in its vehicles.
“It’s a growing trend in the auto industry to introduce soft surfaces replacing hard plastic interiors,” concluded Bas Hennissen, Kraton’s commercial VP. “IMSS technology offers considerable cost and performance advantages over the existing soft skin technologies, with a better sustainability profile.”
Neither GM-SAIC nor parent company General Motors have said if they will use Kraton IMSS material in other future product offerings.