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Larry Thomas

Automotive influences driving motion

HIGH POINT - While discussing Catnapper's Portman motion seating group, which features an automotive-inspired cover with contrasting colors, Anthony Teague couldn't resist the pun.
     "We're selling the wheels off this one," he said.
     Teague, the company's vice president of sales and merchandising, said it's not only the snappy cover that attracts consumers, but also the bucket-style seating and optional power reclining mechanism. And to no one's surprise, those also are automotive-inspired features.

The automotive-style
The automotive-style bucket seat design is popular in motion upholstery, including the Kaylan group from El Ran Furniture.
A full pad-over chaise adds to the comfort of La-Z-Boy’s Greyson sofa, which features bucket-style seats and a center console.
A full pad-over chaise

     In fact, automotive influences are found throughout motion furniture today, and it's fair to say those influences have kept the motion category rolling at a time when many other furniture categories have encountered a rough road.
     "I think it has revolutionized and revitalized the category," said Lee Fautsch, vice president of residential furniture sales at Flexsteel. "(The automotive influence) has a great deal to do with why motion is selling so well these days."
     And it's not just the bucket style seat designs (sometimes called scoop seating) that trace their roots to automobile interiors. Many sofas and loveseats now have center consoles or drop-down tables that include everything from cup holders to USB ports to reading lamps - all of which are standard gadgets in today's cars.
     And did you ever wonder why power reclining mechanisms have exploded in popularity the past couple of years? Think power windows and eight-way power seats.

Klaussner includes an automotive-style center console with cup holders and a storage unit on the Tempe loveseat.
Klaussner includes
The console on this
The console on this Catnapper sectional includes cup holders, a pair of speakers, and iPod docking station.

     "I just wonder what took us so long to come out with power mechanisms," Fautsch said. "It should have been obvious to everybody because we've had power windows since the late 1960s."
     Teague believes it won't belong before power mechanisms become standard equipment - just like power windows are standard in cars.
     "I don't think cars are made anymore with windows that you have to crank, and we believe that, sometime in the near future, motion furniture will all be power," he said.
     One of Lane's best-sellers is a sofa called Transformer that combines the most popular automotive-inspired features found in home theater seating and traditional motion seating.
     The unit starts with bucket style seating and cup holders on each arm, but the middle seat converts to a drop-down console that has additional cup holders, two A/C adapters, two USB ports and a pair of reading lights.
     And to top it off, it has two power reclining mechanisms and power headrests that are controlled by buttons on each armrest.

Lane’s Transformer
The power reclining
Lane’s Transformer motion group features numerous automotive-inspired features, including cup holders, USB ports, A/C adapters and reading lights. The power reclining mechanism and headrest are controlled by a series of buttons on the armrest.

     Teague said the Portman group at Catnapper doesn't include all those features and gadgets (although other models do incorporate some of them), but is inspired by the interiors of today's luxury cars.
     That has led Catnapper to opt for upgraded leather and suede covers on several motion pieces, because consumers are comfortable with such amenities in their cars, he said.
     "Several of our frames now have covers that are influenced by the patchwork seat covers from car interiors," said Teague. "We use contrasting colors, contrast stitching and a lot of upgraded leathers."

Flexsteel has found
Flexsteel has found a winner with its automotive-inspired Grandview sofa.
Catnapper’s popular Portman motion group features a leather and suede cover in contrasting colors.
Catnapper’s popular

     Fautsch said such upgrades make manufacturers and retailers happy because they lead to a higher sales ticket, but more importantly, consumers are happier because the product looks and feels better.
     "It's not just the difference in style. It's about our ability to offer more comfort," he said.
     What other automotive features will find their way into motion furniture?
     For competitive reasons, executives are reluctant to be too specific. But they say it's likely to be related to a vehicle's entertainment system.
     Gone are the days when an AM/FM radio would suffice for a car - multi-disc CD players, MP3 players, and DVD players connected to as many as eight speakers are now commonplace. Will we soon see a loveseat console with a built-in satellite radio?

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