David Weill

David Weill

Continuing just-auto's series of interviews with tier one manufacturers of cockpits and instrumentation, Matthew Beecham spoke to Faurecia's David Weill about consumer expectations, material trends, touch screens, HUDs and tomorrow's instrument cluster.

What do consumers look for and expect from their car cockpit nowadays? And what is expected as a minimum in the mid-range segment?

Consumers expect seamless connectivity, service functions, comfort, quality decorative materials, ambient lighting and so on.

At a minimum, in a mid-range segment vehicle they expect (for the Faurecia Interior Systems perimeter)

  • A level of personalisation through a mix of options, decoration and lighting.
  • A large display (at least one).
  • A (basic) connection for smartphones (Bluetooth, hand-free, charging) and music streaming. 

What developments or trends are you seeing in terms of the material being used to cover the instrument panel?

There is a strong trend towards an extension of covered IPs in non-premium segments: foamed IPs (typically PVC slush skins); and more and more enhanced through two-tone skins, or stitching lines (either functional or just decorative). Leather (real and artificial) becoming the standard for premium models.

To what extent is Faurecia seeing new materials for vehicle interior products, specifically with increased use of bio-based plastics?

From both our customers (OEMs) and end-consumers there is a strong interest and traction to bio materials. There are already several car models in serial production featuring our solution of bio-based plastic in instrument panel and door panel (e.g. VW Golf, Peugeot 308 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class).

  • Biomaterials are attractive for OEMs as they provide lightweight solutions to support fuel efficiency and have a positive impact on the life cycle assessment.
  • For end-consumers, the use of renewable materials demonstrates the car manufacturers' pledge for a better environment and for our planet's resource.

Could you draw on an example on the way in which Faurecia has pushed back the technical boundary of vehicle acoustics and soft trim, in particular for lightweight solutions?

Taking the Light-Weight Concept (LWC) dash-insulator, a three-layer absorber system, Faurecia combines cost and weight-efficient material while optimising the acoustic performance (insulation/absorption trade-off and reduction of leakages). This solution, initially developed for diesel-engine applications, has been reworked and extended for gasoline engines, resulting in performance improvement on weight (up to -30 percent) and stiffness, as well as car mounting conditions.

OEMs are continually experimenting with LEDs to create certain lighting 'moods' with the cabin. How is Faurecia supporting this?

Lighting has always been a delighting topic and, as previously said, consumers want their car to be an extension of their home/office where lighting is typically a main factor to create an atmosphere. LEDs have several advantages over conventional light bulbs such as energy consumption (and thus fuel efficiency), significant lower heat generation, weight and packaging space requirements. With the achievements in LEDs development over the past years, these are now at a level where they can be applied in the car interior. Faurecia is focusing on the integration of the lighting function by taking 1) a systemic approach and 2) a focus on the perceived quality. Seamless integration, cost and weight, as well as considering the available packaging space are some of the main aspects of our development activities. Our expertise in car architecture and plastic injection allows us to develop light-guides that require overall less LEDs for smarter, more tunable and focused ambient lighting.

Touch screens have been around for years yet to what extent are retractable touch screens being adopted?

The advantages of the retractable touch screen rely in combining the aesthetical advantages / wow effect of a retractable screen with the intuitivity of a touch screen. Although this might be (because of cost reasons) limited to premium applications, consumers are looking for touch screens as they know this technology from their daily use with smartphones or tablets. In this field, Faurecia has teamed-up with Magneti Marelli to draw on both companies' respective unique know-how.

In BRIC countries, are there any notable difference in terms of consumer tastes for car interiors compared to more developed nations?

Although BRIC countries are a heterogeneous mix of countries (China still growing faster than e.g. Brazil or Russia and even more India), consumers have indeed different preferences. Whereas Brazil and Russia are closer to European tastes (with a market more centered on entry-level cars), the Asian consumer are looking for more effects in the interior (including lighting effects such as blinking, with a significant emergence of cut and sew finish or real-material decoration). It is also important to note that China pays a great attention to health and safety, with air purification becoming a key consumer expectation. And finally, connectivity requirements are converging at the pace of the consumer electronics market.

How do you see the automotive market for HUDs shaping up in terms of OEM adoption?

From a driving safety side, HUD will become a standard feature. The combiner technology makes the HUD technology affordable which is the main driver for the shift from nice applications to "mass market" acceptance.

The CD player is still ubiquitous in new cars. Isn't it about time that the auto industry makes USB and Bluetooth standard and the CD player optional in mainstream cars?

Yes, absolutely, we already see the trend in new vehicle models. In addition CD players are in our opinion outdated, not only considering their non-use but also the weight disadvantage and the poor handling (higher distraction through change of CDs).

There have been a lot of changes in the cockpit over the past decade alone. How would you sum up today's technology focus?

The cockpit has three main functions and will keep them: safety (airbags, knee impact, cross car beam), decoration and feature integration (e.g. connectivity, comfort. storage). The aspect of safety might be changing the most when a move to autonomous driving will (fully) happen and will be further compensated by additional feature integration (connectivity and storage).

As for tomorrow's instrument cluster, I guess we can expect increasing use of the smartphone and even removable tablets. What's your view of how this area of the car could evolve?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's QUBE Global light vehicle instrumentation and cockpits market- forecasts to 2030