"Even the smallest changes automakers make in the very final stages of vehicle production can mean a whole new build cycle for WeatherTech DigitalFit mats."
Every winter, we buy WeatherTech (you know, those guys you see in our magazine?) DigitalFit floor mats for our Four Seasons test cars. They fit perfectly, take harsh abuse, and look great.
This year, though, we ran into a snag with our 2014 Kia Cadenza. While some of our cars don’t have DigitalFit mats available—some cars are so new that they haven’t been measured yet—the Kia Cadenza only had DigitalFit mats available for the front row. We hadn’t seen that before. If a car had DigitalFit mats available, it had them for all rows. We emailed one of our contacts at MacNeil Automotive Products Ltd., the company that produces WeatherTech mats, and he said it would be easier to explain in person, inviting us to visit MacNeil’s offices in Downers Grove, Illinois.
There, we met with Allan Thom, president of MacNeil Automotive Products and WeatherTech. He gave us a brief history lesson on the measuring process for DigitalFit floor mats. The DigitalFit program started in 2004, when the company used an articulating arm to scan the floors of almost every car on the market. The arm recorded digital coordinates of the intricacies of a car floor that would let the guys and gals at WeatherTech create a CAD structure of that car floor, which in turn would be used to design the floor mats for said car. The arm’s hypersensitivity caused a few problems. If a car moved slightly during the measuring process, all of the digital coordinates would be unusable and the measuring process would have to be restarted. WeatherTech had to jack cars up off of the ground to make sure they’d didn’t move at all.
Fast forward a decade, and WeatherTech now uses a compact, hand-held tool that does the exact same job as the articulating arm. Better yet, the car can be sitting on the ground and move during the measuring process without tripping up the device. And don’t think that the new scanner is any worse than the finicky arm. The current scanner is so sensitive that just about every fiber of a car’s carpeting shows up in the CAD file.
After our history lesson, we asked Thom about the Kia Cadenza’s rear mats. He told us that they had measured one of the first production Cadenzas and had produced DigitalFit mats, front and rear, from those measurements. But early in the production cycle, Kia began fitting Cadenzas with rear-floor-mat retention hooks, which hadn’t been on the Kia Cadenza that WeatherTech measured. That meant the mats WeatherTech had produced were useless. The fronts were unchanged, so they sold those until an updated Kia Cadenza could be measured. Thom said that even the smallest changes automakers make in the very final stages of vehicle production, like the addition of a retention hook or an extra piece of sound-deadening material, could mean a whole new build cycle for WeatherTech.
We thanked Thom for his time and for giving us the download on WeatherTech, but before we could go, the WeatherTech team outfitted our Kia Cadenza with the new, now-available rear mats, as well as a cargo mat.