In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with Vicenç Aguilera, managing director of Ficosa Technology about the company’s rearview mirror systems.
just-auto: Your global alliance with Ichikoh was announced last May. What further is there to report on this?
Vicenç Aguilera: Our alliance with Ichikoh has started in North America where we have taken care of all the assets of Ichikoh and reorganised its business. We are now in the early stages of joining forces in China in order to develop new products for this fast-growing economy.
What does that involve?
We are discussing how to join the technical, engineering and commercial expertise together in order to target the Chinese marketplace. Once we have achieved that, we can look for other Asian markets. But that will happen next year, not this year.
What does this alliance mean for Ficosa?
Thanks to this alliance, Ficosa has a reinforced its position in the United States. Going forward, we expect to develop business not only with European or American car manufacturers but also with other manufacturers.
In terms of combining your technical and engineering expertise, what does that mean in areas of, say, driver assistance systems?
Ichikoh does not have any advanced driver assistance systems so we are sharing our technology with them. We have expertise in lane recognition and departure warning systems which is all related to forward looking technology as well as blind spot detection systems located on the exterior rearview mirror. We are discussing with Ichikoh how to approach the Japanese and Asiatic markets. We are still in the study phase and sharing this technology. In fact, we are developing all our technologies with Ichikoh but there is not yet any definitive business plan in place. These things take time, however.
Rearview mirrors are being transformed into a high tech hub of automotive electronics. What else we could expect to see packaged into either the exterior or interior rearview mirror?
On exterior mirrors, one of the areas we are developing is a multiplex solution in order to reduce the amount of power required in the mirror. We are also dedicated to installing antennae in mirrors for AM, FM, telephone, digital television, digital audio broadcasting, GPS, etc.
The trend in the automotive business is that cars look nicer without antennae. So we are putting more and more antennae in the mirrors. In addition, we are putting cameras on the mirrors for driver assistance. We are also using some additional functions like day running light with LEDs.
Do you see more information being displayed on the exterior and interior mirror?
Although there is a trend in the market for using the interior mirror as a screen to display rear- and side-facing camera images, we believe that using a screen located on the central console is much a better location to display such information. Given that everybody is switching to a central display, it does not make sense to display such information on the interior rearview mirror.
What are the prospects for LED turn signals and exterior mirrors in the European market place?
For turn signals we are using normal bulbs as well as LEDs. It depends on the vehicle styling, how the manufacturer wants to display the light, etc. All car manufacturers are trying to put some design personality in the turn signal on the mirror. And there is no doubt that you can reach much better styling during the night using LEDs, it’s also more expensive because you need more electronics. However, the medium and premium cars will go toward LED solutions while the low cost cars will retain the bulb as a cheap solution. I think we’ll see 50% of cars with LED [turn signals] by 2014 and the rest fitted with bulbs.
Turning to power folding mirrors, we’ve seen fitment rates increase in Japan where the streets are quite narrow and the traffic is dense. How do you see the European market progressing for such mirrors?
The market share in folding mechanisms has increased over the past five years and will continue to grow in Europe. For that reason, we have integrated the folding motor mechanism into our production lines located in Turkey.