Carpet in cars is stupid. It’s always been a little stupid, but for decades it was the best we could do, if you wanted something covering the lower interior of your car that deadened sound and wasn’t as cheap-looking as rubber or bare metal. I know we can do better, and I think humanity is finally ready.
Let’s just think about carpeting in cars for a bit. Your car is a place where you’re most likely going to be wearing shoes, where you’re going to be stepping into after walking through any number of unknown surfaces, in all kinds of weather. That means your shoes are likely to be gritty, dirty, wet – pretty much the entire glorious spectrum of how an object can be moistly besmirched. And, since most cars lack porches with doormats, all that real-world filthitude will be making its way from your shoes to your car’s carpet.
I know what you’re thinking – floor mats! You have floor mats in your car! They protect that precious carpet from the assault of shoe-borne invaders!
Sure, that’s true. But consider this: the very existence of floor mats is a condemnation of the failure of the car’s carpet to do its job. If the carpet needs another bit of removable carpet over it to protect it, something is deeply, profoundly wrong.
Did a knight wear armor over his armor to protect his armor? Floor mats are like the plastic covers hypothetical grandmas have on their rugs and furniture: a sign of a world gone wrong.
We drink beverages in cars, we eat food. Purists may insist that this never happens in their cars, but the vast majority of car owners don’t listen to purists because they’re too busy eating and drinking stuff while driving. And liquids spill, and food crumbles, and it all gets worked into the dense fibers of an automotive carpet.
I’ve had to clean spoiled coffee out of my wife’s car carpet way, way more times than I thought would be fun. Getting the smell out is like wrestling with a stinky ghost in a dense forest of pubes.
Carpet makes no sense in cars. As a car ages, it’s almost guaranteed to be the part that gets the most disgusting. It’s where weird smells live, where moisture sets up camp to start a vigorous rust campaign, where stains grow and migrate, like maps of population migrations.
If you have a kid, you probably agree even more. Why would you line the whole lower basin of a car designed to hold kids with the one substance that seems engineered to latch and hold crumbs better than any other? Carpeting the back half of a minivan is essentially a form of engineering and design sadism.
Honda (and now other companies) include vacuum options in minivans. Again, this is just more equipment, weight, and complexity that dances around the real issue: carpet in cars is stupid.
We have so many interesting alternatives now: synthetic materials that can be warm and sound-deadening and yet smooth and easily clean-able on their outer surfaces. We can emulate textures from nature or concoct artificial, artful new designs. We can incorporate woods and bamboos and laminates and glossy surfaces and matte textured surfaces and recycled rubbers and maybe even leathers or canvas-based materials and on and on and on.
I have no idea why we’re still stuck on carpet. Fire-retardation qualities can be on anything. We can have car floors that are free from the tyranny of floormats, car floors that are stylish and comfortable and shrug off sand or spilled espresso or a metric assload of masticated Goldfish crackers.
We can do this. Together, we can free ourselves from the fuzzy shackles of in-car carpet.