Uwe Behrendt

Uwe Behrendt

Magna covers the entire spectrum of vehicle roof systems. Continuing just-auto/QUBE's series of interviews with tier one component suppliers, we caught up with Uwe Behrendt, Director Sales, Magna Closures & Magna Car Top Systems to discuss trends in sunroofs, convertibles, solar technology and alternative lightweight glazing.

As we see it, there is a growing population of motorists willing to pay a premium for more light and air in the cabin.  Second-hand car buyers also look for such features.  How do you see consumer tastes for sunroofs shaping-up?

The use of glass, in general, is a huge trend in modern architecture, mobility and society. Similarly, light and air ingress into the car cabin will be a major trend for the next several years.

Large transparent roof surfaces are in high demand.

Large transparent roof surfaces will, therefore, be in high demand. The need for differentiation will also come up in the field of electrically driven cars and will further support this trend. As a specialist for each kind of roof system, Magna started development of concepts for glass roof systems years ago and is ready to offer very new roof systems within our Top Selection Program.

Given the increasing size of sunroofs across vehicle segments, there will always be a requirement to reduce the weight of panoramic roofs. What do you see happening there and how is Magna addressing this?  

Magna is a pioneer in the use of light metals in retractable roof systems and is constantly improving lightweight technologies for panoramic roofs, soft tops, retractable hardtops and sliding folding roofs. New technologies are ready for production. In our new ViewTop roof system, we offer a combination of advantages of a panoramic roof system with its glass area and a sliding folding roof to provide a huge daylight opening. With its lightweight design and materials, the system offers customer value with further potential for individualisation regarding roof and car.

Solar technology in cars seems to be another way beside weight reduction to promote the image of ecological awareness and could be a trend for future sunroof development. What's your view?

Solar technology will be one element in the entire range of systems to be offered in roof systems, and it helps to further increase the acceptance of individual mobility based on ecological and sustainable technologies. Magna is analysing the technological potential for solar technology in roof systems and expects further increases of efficiency in the coming five years.

To what extent is the technology behind a soft top comparable to a hard top?

Soft tops improved drastically during the last years regarding durability, acoustic behaviour, thermal insulation and finish.

Due to the high amount of textiles, soft tops require different technologies to achieve the smallest possible package. This leads to the use of specific elements for controlling the movement of the exterior textile and inner liner and an increased complexity in this field. Retractable hardtops themselves could be designed with reduced complexity, but the need for the kinematic movement of larger rear lids leads again to higher mechanical complexity in conventional car segments.

Polycarbonate glazing has been available for some time yet its actual application as rear windows is relatively rare, due to scratch resistance, weathering and integration of the heater element. Do you see this changing in terms of convertible roofs at all?

Alternative lightweight glass technologies like gorilla glazing have come up without polycarbonate's typical restrictions.

Polycarbonate glazing was under discussion for convertible roof backlights but did so far not meet cost requirements and technical needs. In addition, alternative lightweight glass technologies like gorilla glazing have come up without polycarbonate's typical restrictions like reduced scratch resistance or high tooling and process cost. Today we do not expect to see PC backlights in large-scale production for convertible roofs.

Could you give us some idea of the pace of growth of the retractable hardtop market in North America and Europe?

Due to weight, cost, package and design advantages, soft tops are the most preferred systems in the field of cabriolets. Retractable hardtops are mostly used in segments like sports cars and high-speed cars with limited roof dimensions and therefore reduced space requirement for stowing. The Magna-developed hybrid roof shows the bridge between soft tops and retractable hardtops by solid shells between the textile layers and with an impressively solid appearance and touch without the package draughts of retractable hardtops. In general, we expect the retractable hardtop market not to be growing because of increasing dominance of soft top systems.

How do you see the further development of convertible design?

Cabriolet cars as a traditional and classic segment will keep their typical appearance in premium segments but with more adaption to coupe styles. Low beltlines together with large wheel sizes reduce the available package space in the architecture of the car furthermore and lead to intensive simulation activities in the concept phase of the roof development to meet the reduced space targets given by these conditions. Magna uses its own developed simulation tools to meet this challenge along with short development timelines.

We see a trend for higher emotionality in SUV style cars.

In parallel, we see a trend for higher emotionality in SUV style cars, which potentially leads to alternative and new moving roof systems for that segment of vehicles.

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