July 24, 2014 at 1:00 am

Soup It Up

Wixom outlet specializes in splashy seats

Alea offers mild to wild leather upgrades

Some seating options are displayed at the Alea company's Wixom office. (Larry Edsall / Special to The Detroit News)

Tired of your vehicle’s drab and dirty cloth interior? Want something easier to clean? Want to upgrade to leather?

Oh, and while you’re at it, Alea Leather Specialist, Inc. of Wixom can offer you top-quality Italian Nappa leather in an amazing variety of colors and with an array of insert patterns, and even various styles of stitching.

And once you make up your mind and place your order, your seat covers can be ready and installed in just a couple of days.

The Wixom office is one of only three such facilities for Hong Kong-based Sunguard Group, which has been producing automotive leather seating for more than 20 years. There’s also an Alea Leather Specialist office in Germany, as well as a distribution warehouse in California.

But even if the California warehouse doesn’t have what you need, your order can be custom cut, sewn and shipped from Hong Kong with guaranteed arrival at your chosen installation retailer two days after placing your order.

Regular Alea customers already include AEV, American Expedition Vehicles of Commerce Township; Classic Design Concepts, a Wixom-based automotive restyled with more than 25 years of experience; and Starwood Motors, a Texas-based upfitter specializing in Jeeps.

The Wixom office does some installations for local new car dealerships and handles the detailed seat measurement of new vehicles so patterns can be made. It also is working toward achieving official supplier status with the OEMs, the original equipment auto manufacturers.

Alicia Driggers, sales manager for the Wixom office, said that to assure the highest quality, not only does Alea use only leather sourced from Italian herds, but only leather processed in Italian tanneries. For customers who want suede, she said, only Italian-produced Ultrasuede is used.

She also explained that while seating surfaces are leather, seat sides and backs are made from a vinyl material, and thus colors and textures may not match. So, she said, the company starts with a batch of leather and sends a sample to its vinyl supplier to achieve an exact match.

She also said Alea produces 20 special styles of seat inserts, the shoulder and back area of the seat back and the bottom cushion between the bolsters. It also does special-order embroidery, embossing, debossing (raised letters or patterns) and even laser etching.

In addition to the usual sort of seat stitching, Alea offers inverted piping, which she explained as “sewing under a French seam for a more modern reveal.”

Because so many seats now have safety air bags built into them, Alea developed a Docuseam system that uses computerized analysis of each stitch to assure it isn’t too thick to interfere with airbag deployment nor too thin to cause premature wear.

In addition to front and rear seating surfaces, Alea also can cover steering wheels, steering wheel hubs and door panels. Speaking of door panels, there’s an option for internal lighting within those panels.

Alea also offers its own seat-heating systems — for front and back seats — and can install 9-inch DVD screens in the back of front-seat head rests, with each DVD playing a different show.

A typical two-row installation starts at around $799, she said. Some seating surfaces can be installed by a skilled do-it-yourselfer, but Alea prefers authorized resellers handle installation in vehicles with seats that have internal air bag systems. The Alea website, www.alealeather.com, includes an application guide and other information.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.