The Death Of The Great American Automotive Bench Seat

Many of my earliest memories are sitting three or four abreast in the front seat of the family’s powder blue Chevy Nova. Years later, I remember packing friends onto the bench seats of my ’71 Malibu (a lovely hand-painted pickle green) for hours of terrorizing the streets of suburban Philadelphia. So it’s with a tear in my eye that I hear today about the disappearance of this American icon.

From the Detroit News:

The current Chevy Impala will be the last passenger car in production in North America to feature three-across-the-front seating. General Motors Co. has no plans to continue the seating arrangement when the 2014 model begins rolling off the assembly line next year.

GM’s director of design, who apparently doesn’t like the idea of a half-dozen petulant teens crammed into a steel, gasoline and rubber death trap, says that customers actually want their precious, new-fangled bucket seats and the handy-dandy center consoles for their quaint little coffees and bottled waters. He probably also thinks you shouldn’t have to spend 3-5 minutes each morning trying to fish the seatbelt buckle out from the cushions of the bench seat. Picky, picky, picky.

Chrysler hasn’t had a front bench seat since 2004, while up until last year the bench seats were still available in Ford Crown Victorias, Lincoln Town Cars, and the Mercury Grand Marquis — all cars associated with a slightly older-skewing demographic.

And even though it was still an option on Impalas, GM says that only 1-10 buyers chose to pay an extra $195 for the option.

While the gradual shift from sailboats-on-wheels to smaller cars was a big factor in the switch to bucket seats, GM says it may someday return to the bench seat for very small cars where it might make more spatial sense to have one shared seat rather than two singles.

In the meantime, I’m going to go sit on the couch, pop in an old KRS-One cassette and pretend I’m cruising up and down the strip in Quakertown because there is nothing else to do on a Friday night.

Automakers kick bench seats to curb [Detroit News]