Friday, March 03, 2006

A four-door by the window?

America’s penchant for dashboard dining has already transformed the foodservice industry, with drive-thrus presumably providing most of the 33 restaurant meals that consumers each munched in their Chevys, Fords and Hyundais last year. Now the phenomenon is reshaping the dashboard part of the phenomenon, as automakers add ease of eating to the list of reasons for considering their brands.

Amenities that turn cars into better four-wheeled dining rooms have been much noted in coverage of this season’s auto shows. The trend that began with cup holders is now stretching to include scaled-down kitchen appliances, including an in-car microwave, according to some of the news reports.

Those features may be years away. But you’ll be able to spec a mini-refrigerator for your Dodge Caliber starting in 2007. Ford’s Volvo division is already including fold-out snack track trays in the newest version of its XC90 SUV, including one for the driver. And Honda’s Pilot SUV comes with a rear console specially configured to accommodate the dipping sauces for passengers’ chicken nuggets.

Most are intended to minimize the danger of spills. But Jeep, inexplicably expecting its customers to use their Grand Cherokees and Commanders for actual off-road riding, is playing it safe. It’s reportedly focusing on new anti-stain seat covers with microbe-inhibiting qualities.

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