Rob Selle

Rob Selle

What is a front-end module?  It depends on who makes it and for whom.  Front-end modules (FEMs) typically encompass the bumper, headlights, radiator and various others parts. The benefits to the automaker from sourcing complete FEMs are clear: they can help cut the number of operations on the assembly line, reduce vehicle weight, cut tooling costs and improve working capital.  Continuing just-auto/QUBE's series of interviews with component suppliers, we caught up with Rob Selle, Global Product Line Director, FEM, Fascia & Trim, Magna Exteriors, a front-runner serving the FEMs market.

Front-end modules are still evolving, even though the actual concept has yet to be accepted by all OEMs on a global basis.  Technically speaking, where is the main focus of development these days?

Magna sees a focus on delivering more integration and functionality in the design.  Automakers want modules to add value beyond a pre-assembled sub-system. Modules need to provide improved structural performance and have features that meet multiple needs, such as frames that provide structure and airflow sealing.

Carmakers outsourcing front-end modules have been around for some time in Europe.  What are the prospects for FEMs in North America? 

Module interest in North America remains strong.

Module interest in North America remains strong as modules are becoming more complex with added non-exterior (Class A) content and OEMs are seeking vehicle production efficiencies.  

In terms of emerging markets, where and what are the opportunities for FEMs?

The electric vehicle (EV) and Asian markets provide significant opportunities. Many EV companies want to outsource manufacturing, which aligns well with Magna's strong manufacturing capabilities. As Asian market volumes rise and vehicle complexity increases, there will be demand for experienced and capable module suppliers such as Magna.

To what extent are active shutters creeping across car segments?

Most front-end module design inquiries we receive from customers now include a level of active aerodynamics.

Most front-end module design inquiries we receive from customers now include a level of active aerodynamics. Magna continues to receive interest in its patented carrier with integrated ducting and active front deflector as customers seek options to improve vehicle efficiency.

We understand that a typical plastic used for a FEM is polypropylene. How do you set about stiffening the carrier and what other materials are used to make the FEM lighter and stronger?

Polypropylene provides great cost, design and feature integration flexibility. Magna has several advanced innovation projects focused on the application of reinforced materials to provide structural improvements in key areas such as hood latch attachment. An example is the injection molded Polyamide 66 + 20 per cent carbon fibre Grille Opening Reinforcement (GOR) carrier that Magna produces.  Often the design material selection is limited by the OEM vehicle production process.

We are seeing more and more cars come with advanced driver assistance systems that incorporate sensors in the front and rear bumper. To what extent is this trend affecting the FEM and, looking further out at the autonomous vehicle, how would that affect the design of a FEM?

Yes, ADAS is driving more sensor integration in the front and rear of vehicles. The trend is for these sensors to be fascia mounted. However, as the technology evolves and capabilities increase, Magna envisions front and rear modules will become the preferred solution, providing improved structural support for sensors and protection from low speed and debris impact.

Where do you see the market heading with rear-end modules?

The rear of the vehicle is closely following front module design.

Complexity of rear vehicle structures continues to increase with sensor integration and interest in aerodynamic features. The rear of the vehicle is closely following front module design, and as market demand continues toward five-door sedans, the similarity in content and functionality of rear modules will provide great opportunities.