Nik Endrud

Nik Endrud

Seats account for five per cent of a vehicle's total cost and six per cent of its weight. As a result, they represent the second largest expense for automakers. Faurecia Seating is a leader in the design, development and manufacture of automotive seating. Continuing just-auto/QUBE's series of interviews with tier 1 suppliers, we spoke to Nik Endrud, Vice President Strategy and Innovation at Faurecia Seating.

Last year, Faurecia and ZF revealed plans to co-develop interior and safety technologies for autonomous driving. The partners are now identifying and developing safety and interior solutions linked to different potential occupant positions. 

Last month, Faurecia said it is looking for sales growth of 7 per cent to EUR20bn (US$24bn) by 2020 and EUR30bn of sales by 2025. "Faurecia's strategy is aligned with the four automotive megatrends: Connectivity, Autonomous Driving, Ride-Sharing and Electrification," said Faurecia CEO, Patrick Koller at the supplier's Capital Markets Day in Paris. "The Group has a first-mover position and has rapidly deployed a technology ecosystem which will enable accelerated growth in both Sustainable Mobility and Smart Life on Board.  We have already received EUR3.5bn of orders for these technologies and by 2025 sales in New Value Spaces will reach over 20 per cent of the Group's targeted EUR30bn of sales."

We understand that for car manufacturers as well as their suppliers, individualisation is a growth market that offers great potential for differentiation. How is Faurecia responding to that?
We are indeed seeing the trend toward personalisation/individualisation.  For this, we are differentiating what the consumer sees versus. not.  For example, by providing a global platform frame, we are able to save our customers money so they can invest in more added value features that are visible to the consumer.  These include higher-end trim materials, leather, power and comfort features such as pneumatic lumbar and thermal management.
What other megatrends in the automotive seating industry are you seeing and how could that shape the look and feel of tomorrow's car seats?
We are seeing significant impacts on automotive seating from all the key automotive megatrends: Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electrified. 
For Connected, we are the leader in measuring thermal and postural comfort as well as biometric occupant data that can be analysed and used to provide targeted therapies to improve an occupant's life on board.

With our partner ZF, we are redefining the occupant safety experience.

For Autonomous, with our partner ZF, we are redefining the occupant safety experience to provide the most advanced integrated safety system that not only reacts to a crash, but predicts a crash and properly positions the occupant in the safest possible way.

For Shared, we are redefining the ability for a seating system to be comfortable, clean and connected, including personalised climate and sound "bubbles" that enable a personal experience even if you're not the only one in the vehicle.

For Electrified, we continue to lead the industry in both low mass and packaging solutions to support the challenges of range and packaging brought on by electric vehicles.
Can we expect to see more fibre-reinforced composite seat back frames that provide a low mass design and improved packaging efficiency?
We continue to believe that fibre-reinforced composite seat backs will be used for specific applications, but not widely applied to global platform frames.  The reasons for this are two-fold.  First, the economies of scale driven by high capacity stamping tools cannot be ignored.  The second is that the steel industry continues to innovate and provide stronger material that can be converted into ever-thinner parts, thereby offsetting the mass advantages of a composite design.  That being said, we will certainly look to leverage Faurecia's expertise in composites (our Faurecia Clean Mobility business has a composite division) on applications where it makes sense.  One example of this is our Advanced Versatile Structure (AVS), which is our next-generation all-belts-to-seat (ABTS) frame that we are co-developing with ZF.  In this structure, we used a mixed material model, where we applied the right materials in the right place to maximise the performance and minimise weight.  This included using a mixture of aluminium and steel in the cushion structure while employing both steel and composite in the backrest.
Although weight reduction is crucial if the auto industry is to meet the CAFÉ standards, is there a negative perception of thin seats amongst consumers? 
We actually think it's quite the opposite.  We believe that thinner seats, when comfortable, contribute to a more positive and premium feeling among consumers and specifically enhances the feeling of roominess in the overall vehicle interior.