Inteva Products’ Tilt & Slide Roof System

Inteva Products’ Tilt & Slide Roof System

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In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with Everardo Hernandez, engineering manager for Inteva Products LLC about the company’s innovative roof systems. Earlier this year, Inteva Products acquired ArvinMeritor’s body systems business. 

just-auto: As we understand it, the acquisition of ArvinMeritor’s Body Systems division strengthens Inteva Products’ position in the global supply of roof systems. Could you give us a few examples of the ways in which the acquisition has bolstered your business this year?

Everardo Hernandez: The acquisition has allowed Inteva to grow in Europe and Asia. As a result, Inteva has now a stronger presence in India, China, Japan and a large footprint in Europe in addition to its strong presence in North America. ArvinMeritor had been manufacturing roof systems in these regions for years and now Inteva has the opportunity to grow and foster its vertical integration model and knowledge in plastics injection moulding. At the same time, Inteva now offers this product line a significant North American manufacturing footprint for Roof systems allowing Inteva to be in close proximity to many key customers.

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?

Sunroofs have always been a popular option in vehicles and they continue to grow in popularity. The traditional single panel roof systems known as Tilt & Slide continues to be very popular with OEMs allowing them to use such systems as plug and play in multiplatform vehicles while maintaining a healthy cost model and providing the customer with added light and air in the cabin. Today, a large number of consumers are looking beyond the traditional single glass panel sunroof, specifically panoramic roofs that would allow more light to flood into the cabin. We offer a wide variety of panoramic sunroof systems, from the large single panel roof module to multi-panel large opening roof systems with up to three glass panels. 

As with most implementation paths for new vehicle technology, we are seeing sunroof technology used on luxury vehicles filtering down the car segments. I guess that by bringing the previously SUV dominated sunroofs down to crossover vehicle segments, we could expect to see more carry-over content?  As a result, this would presumably make these roofs available to more vehicle segments?

Today’s trend is to design and implement sunroofs as versatile modules. For these modules we would offer a base module with the possibility to add sub-modules depending on the option required for the specific vehicle. The sub-modules can be additional glass pieces, or extensions to locate additional motors, sunshades or even solar cell modules. Modularity allows the OEM to tool components only once and make combinations depending on the vehicle size and type thereby saving money and development time as well as ensuring quality is maintained as no additional modules have to be validated.

Although there is a trend towards consumers driving smaller cars, I guess they still want to maintain the levels of light they are used to?

Smaller and gas efficient cars are heavily in demand today yet customers do still demand a certain level of luxury and functionality on those cars. Small and fuel efficient cars are no longer equivalent to cheap cars. Inteva’s sunroof modules offer the perfect fit for those small cars by providing low mass solutions as well as low packaging systems that can still allow the vehicle manufacturer to provide a sunroof without sacrificing interior space and headroom clearance. Inteva’s composite frame sunroof provides up to 35% mass savings and its compact and innovative mechanism allows for a low roof line without sacrificing headroom.

Given the increasing size of sunroofs across vehicle segments, I guess there is a pressing need to reduce the weight of such larger sunroofs. Yet I guess such low-weight solutions require more advanced material choices and technologies which itself adds to costs?

Low weight is definitely a challenge for large panoramic sunroof systems. The larger the glass is, the heavier it becomes. As the glass panel increases in size, the need for a stronger mechanism and guiding system increases, adding weight of the overall system. Inteva has developed a variety of solutions to provide the largest possible roof opening while keeping the weight to its minimum. Technologies like aluminum, magnesium and plastic frames have provided some of the answers. In most cases these are not feasible for all vehicles due to the high cost of these materials although some OEMs are choosing to go this path and assign financial attributes to the mass benefits.

Advance development initiatives include the use of magnesium frames and other alternative materials. The low volume of some of these systems still makes them not feasible for low to medium cost vehicles. But as these technologies evolve and the volumes pick up they could be making it to the market within the next five years.

The benefits of solar-powered sunroofs are clear yet, given the infancy of this technology, I guess the output performance and cost structure are not yet balanced?

Solar cells technology is not at the point to offer significant advantages versus cost. The technology is still expensive and has limitations in terms of what it can offer a vehicle. In a sunroof, today’s solar cells challenges may limit its use to high-end vehicles.

Expert analysis

Global light vehicle roof systems market - forecasts to 2034

Global light vehicle roof systems market - forecasts to 2034

This QUBE report from just-auto provides a comprehensive overview of the global automotive roof systems sector, major suppliers, top 14 markets, technology trends and market size forecasts. Use this r...read more

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