Passenger side air bags have been rapidly accepted by the public for the protection they provide; however, in exchange, they have created an issue with fit and finish detracting from the harmony and flow-through styling presently in vogue in vehicles. With the current plethora of materials and processes used to manufacture separate passenger side air bag doors and the inability to build components to a line on line fit, attempts to tune all these factors is a lesson in frustration.
In 1992, a design and development team from Textron, Chrysler, Dow, and Allied Signal were given the assignment of making the 1996 Voyager/Caravan the industies first fully integrated seamless passenger air bag (PAB) door. Several critical factors had to be addressed:
split seam appearance
pab deployment at all temperatures
instrument panel integrity
As a result of their effort, a padded surface instrument panel without any visible seams over the PAB, was implemented into production on the 1996 Chrysler Voyager and Plymouth Caravan models.
A vinyl skin is cast with a preferentially weakened section to allow predictable tearing during air bag deployment. The shell is processed using conventional means to provide an instrument panel with a mid-mount PAB canister and an insert molded plastic/steel door that has no distinguishing features to indicate where the bag will deploy. This provides a seamless flow-through appearance, optimizing color, gloss, grain and dimensional match.