Front bench takes a back seat to buckets

Impala for 2013 is the last passenger car in production in North America to offer three-across front seating.

  • Oct. 13, 2012 3:00 p.m.

This 1937 Chevrolet Coach sported a front bench seat. The Chevrolet Impala is the last North American passenger car in the industry to offer a front bench seat

When the 2014 Chevrolet Impala arrives next year it will put to rest a fixture of automobiles since the days of the horseless carriage—the front bench seat.

The outgoing Impala is the last passenger car in production in North America to offer three-across front seating, an option that ends in 2013 with the introduction of Chevy’s redesigned flagship sedan.

The passing of the front bench seat into automotive history is expected to transpire without notice from many car buyers.

Only one in 10 Impala buyers chose the option last year on the LS and LT models.

For many of today’s car buyers, front bucket seats are the norm—a trend that General Motors’ designers expect will continue.

“A lot of people prefer bucket seats because they’re sporty, even in models that aren’t sports cars,” said Clay Dean, GM’s director of design.

“Our customers also appreciate having the center console as a convenient place to store their phone and other personal items.”

The first Chevrolet ever manufactured, the Series C Classic Six of 1911, featured a front bench seat. Chevrolet will continue to offer bench seats on pickup trucks and sport utilities.

The need for six-passenger sedans is largely being met today by SUVs or crossovers, such as the Chevrolet Suburban and Traverse, which offer seating for up to eight.

“There is certain nostalgia for bench seats, like being able to snuggle up with your date at a drive-in movie, and some customers still like them,” Dean said.

“You never know, we might see bench seats re-emerge someday, possibly in very small cars like the EN-V urban mobility concept vehicle, in which the feeling of open space may be very desirable.”

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