by Bob Beranek
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Last week we discussed value added features as they relate to the performance or safety of a vehicle (or both). We began with the discussion of high modulus and low-conductive urethane products. Today I thought we should discuss some new features that add tremendous benefits and modern technology to the cars that we drive. Are these features performance driven or safety driven?

Solar Parts

Solar comes in two flavors, reflective solar-coated and solar absorbing. The purpose of solar glass, as defined by the glass and vehicle manufacturers, is to protect the vehicle and occupants from the ultraviolet and infrared rays from the sun. Ultraviolet rays cause premature deterioration to plastics and fabrics and can contribute to health problems to the occupants. Infrared rays are the heat producing rays from the sun and must be reduced or eliminated to make the vehicle comfortable in warm sunny climates.

Is this performance or safety?

For the most part, it is performance. The reason for the introduction of solar parts was twofold. One, the increased use of glass in vehicle design called for the use of solar glass to reflect those terrible ultraviolet light rays from the interior parts to avoid premature damage. Two, the Environment Protection Agency forced vehicle manufacturers to make a change in the Freon used in the A/C units and the designers had to compensate for the less efficient coolant. When infrared light rays are reflected or absorbed, the vehicle is cooled as well. So performance is probably the main reason for solar glass introduction into the automotive realm.

Now, you could say that filtering out ultraviolet light protects the occupants from skin cancer or the solar coating protects the plastic lamination from separating from the glass surface thus insuring a safe bond, and that would be an interesting debate. It would be an excellent selling point to your customers.

However, it is a stretch to say that the solar glass is truly a safety feature. Who is to say that the skin cancer contracted was from the use of non-solar glass and not from the hours spent on the beach or mowing the lawn?  Who is to say that the non-use of solar glass caused the failure of the windshield bond when non-solar glass was used for decades before with no bond problem or significant lamination separation? So you see that the question can be debated, but I believe solar glass is mainly a performance feature.

As we discussed last week, manufacturers label value-added items as “performance-” or “safety-” related based on the financial benefit it brings to the table. However, the true test of safety over performance is when it is tried in court. If a consumer thinks that an item is added to their vehicle for safety purposes and that item fails, the individual may go to court to voice their beliefs. If a jury is convinced through testimony that an item is there as a safety device, the device now becomes a safety device no matter what the vehicle manufacturer labeled it. This is our system of justice. That is why I recommend that when replacing any glass in a vehicle, it is always best practice to replace the part with the same type of part that was in it from the factory. It is the cheapest insurance against liability that a shop owner can buy.