Given the accent on tomorrow’s car interior is becoming more about occupant comfort and health, how will that affect the interior? Maintaining a social distance, we put this question to Han Hendriks, Chief Technology Officer at Yanfeng Technology. The coronavirus epidemic highlights just how important vehicle hygiene is for the entire mobility industry. The supplier has developed an antimicrobial device that can be integrated into the headliner console and uses UV light to disinfect the air and surfaces in the vehicle interior. Other discussion topics put under the microscope include smart interior surfaces and Yanfeng’s Experience in Motion 2020 (XiM20) concept vehicle.
Could you tell us more about your Smart Interior Surfaces?
Next-generation A-surfaces become smarter than ever and are now able to interact with vehicle passengers to display visual information, control functions, and allow for a personalised interior.
Yanfeng has expertise in the integration of technologies into all kinds of surfaces, whether plastic, wood and natural fibres, leather, textile or metal decorative surfaces. Next-generation A-surfaces become smarter than ever and are now able to interact with vehicle passengers to display visual information, control functions, and allow for a personalised interior. As a result, surfaces which previously only had a decorative function will become touch-sensitive control surfaces in the interiors of future vehicles. Functionalities from customer-specific operating concepts can be integrated on almost all interior surfaces.
A good example of how we can integrate functions into different interior surfaces is our Smart Surface Demonstrator that consists of seven intuitive human-machine interface (HMI) solutions that are seamlessly integrated into different surfaces. Each solution can be tailored to OEM-specific functionalities. With the seamless integration of intuitive HMI technologies into hard and soft interior surfaces, we are offering functionality that is only visible on demand. The platform’s functionalities are currently at a concept design stage and may be used as early as the next generation of vehicles in model year 2021.
We understand that YF leveraged some of the trends used in the hospitality industry in its XiM20 concept car. Could you tell us a little more about this car and what it represents?
Our Experience in Motion 2020 (XiM20) concept vehicle embodies our Smart Cabin vision and shows how we accelerate the realisation for future automotive interiors. Based on extensive market research and futuring activities, Smart Cabin features functional surfaces, health and wellness features, and connectivity seamlessly integrated in all interior systems including seating. Our XiM20 offers information, displays, lighting, and interior ambience and provides flexibility and comfort for the autonomous rideshare passengers of tomorrow. Since all solutions are customisable and enable new forms of interaction, it brings surprise and delight in the mobility space.
Indeed we also decided to leverage some of the trends currently used by the hospitality industry using natural materials and creating an environment matching the increasing desire for authenticity from consumers. Therefore, our XiM20 interior is designed in two distinct zones: the bright, airy front of the vehicle and the more cocoon-like rear, offering lounge seating and privacy. The front area is an observation space, offering comfortable, functional seating with an uninterrupted 180 degree view through the curved windshield. This zone is reminiscent of a cafe or coffee house bar, pressed up against a glass window to allow passengers to feel connected to the world around them while enjoying their journey.
The rear zone offers secluded comfort where passengers can retreat from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives. The space mimics the cozy atmosphere of a lounge, with a soft fabric surrounding and technology integrations designed to complement passengers’ moods and preferences.
If tomorrow’s mobility is about sharing cars, what does that mean for the interior?
If a consumer is paying by the minute for shared mobility, the last thing they’ll want to do is spend ten minutes learning how to use the car and setting up its functions.
First off, shared car interiors will need to be intuitive, particularly if the service is paid by ride time. If a consumer is paying by the minute, the last thing they’ll want to do is spend ten minutes learning how to use the car and setting up its functions. Controls will need to adapt to a passenger. Users want to be able to get in the car, be recognised by the car, and have the seat, controls and mirrors move into the correct position. Space for modular, plug-in features and multiple seating modes (e.g. one that provides floor space for larger items) also need to be considered.
People will also be looking for seamless connectivity with their mobile phones, as well as charging capability. The digital content of personal apps, online profiles or personal devices will be synchronised immediately on entering the vehicle. Individual applications, images or lighting effects are available to vehicle users – ultimately everything connecting to their lifestyle and personal needs and which can create an individual interior experience.
Features like door pockets and glove compartments might disappear as users of shared mobility vehicles are often hesitant to using them for fear of forgetting personal items. We presented a solution for this in our XiM20 with the “Never-Forget Storage” – storage spaces and bins recognise forgotten belongings, alerting passengers with a series of light and sounds alerts directing them to the stored items.
Hygiene is also equally important for shared mobility service companies as a clean and fresh interior drives customer satisfaction and vehicle up-time, both of which are essential for business success.
Given the accent on tomorrow’s car interior is becoming more about occupant comfort and health, how will that affect the interior?
We’ve already talked about users’ expectations when getting into the car, being recognised by the car and having everything in the right position as well as synchronising digital content of personal app or devices.
The COVID_19 epidemic highlights how important vehicle hygiene is for the entire mobility industry.
We also expect increasing use of anti-microbial solutions for private cars as well as for car-sharing and, ride-hailing services. Most people do care a lot about the cleanliness of their own or shared cars, and people care about a healthy, and appealing interior when starting their journeys. In addition, today’s world COVID_19 epidemic highlights how important vehicle hygiene is for the entire mobility industry. Therefore, we developed an antimicrobial device that can be integrated into the headliner console and uses UV light to disinfect the air and surfaces in the vehicle interior. Our UV Sanitizer technology is an antimicrobial device that sanitises interior surfaces and air with UV-C light, destroying both bacteria and viruses to ensure a healthy environment for all passengers. The UV Air Sanitizer efficiently uses the same UV light source as the Surface Sanitizer. Air circulation is based on redirected HVAC airflow.
How such a UV surface disinfection can be integrated into the vehicle could look can also be seen in our XiM20 concept car, where a UV frequency light is swivelled across the interior to disinfect frequently contacted surfaces between rides.
Chinese tastes are increasingly influencing the design of cars driven not just in China, but around the world. How do you see that influencing the interior?
As a leading global supplier with major customers and partners around the world, Yanfeng has a unique perspective on global markets and consumer demands. One significant development that we and the entire industry has observed over recent vehicle generations is the consolidation of consumer tastes. It is harder to distinguish between specific regions as end-consumers are exposed to – and inspired by – trends and technologies from around the world, and therefore have increasingly similar goals and expectations.
To understand this on a societal level, we conducted a global study on Quality of Life with over 2,000 respondents and found that, indeed, global consumers agree on the top three dimensions that define a high quality of life: personal and financial security, physical well-being, and quality of goods and services. The similarities were much stronger than the differences, although some subtle “subconscious influencers” were found to be different from region to region. For example, German respondents showed a higher correlation of experiences to a high quality of life, Chinese responses expressed an underlying connection to community and cultural heritage, and Americans were more clearly motivated by meaning and purpose in life.
These over-arching similarities with subtle regional differences reflect themselves similarly in automotive tastes. Looking at global production and show cars, it is clear that preferences in vehicle type, colours, and materials are not as different as in past vehicle generations. Look a little deeper, however, and some subtle differences do emerge. For example, German consumers still hold a higher standard for craftsmanship and precision in execution, Americans express a desire for functionality and flexibility in interiors, and Chinese consumers have higher demands for digital connectivity via onboard apps and services. Environmental friendliness is an important factor for both China and Germany. Vehicle sharing services are valued for their ability to circumvent driving-related stress and are most used by Chinese consumers. Particularly for the people in Japan and China, the vehicle needs to be absolutely clean and smell good, when the car arrives. Our UV surface sanitiser for the XiM20 is a solution that keeps the surfaces and the air hygienically clean.
It is important to mention that these subtle feature preferences are always shifting and evolving. The advantage that Yanfeng has with a global point of view is that by developing interiors that meet German levels of manufacturing execution, we are prepared for those same requirements and demands when they emerge on the Chinese market, which is currently the trend. Likewise, while connectivity throughout society is more visible in Asia, the same services could be equally desirable in Europe and the US, along with the same global standards for data privacy and security.
By constantly monitoring end-consumers’ needs and requirements as well as working with OEM customers in all regions, Yanfeng develops a global toolkit of products and capabilities to satisfy the most demanding customers, wherever they may be. As such, our company can adapt and apply solutions to meet customers’ shifting demands, as well as understand end-consumers’ underlying desires and motivations, whether regionally, globally, or culturally inspired.
To what extent can your mobility concepts be applied to elsewhere, i.e. transportation?
We have a couple of solutions that can be used in any transportation e.g. our antimicrobial device that sanitises vehicle interior air and surfaces with UV light. The slim console with its concealed air vents can be seamlessly integrated into any cabin interior. It can be mounted as an overhead console or be designed as a portable unit for multimodal transportation including train cabins, boats, buses, or vans, in line with customer specifications.
Furthermore, and most of our concepts can be applied across many disciplines and be transferred very well to other areas, e.g. public transport. Our XiM20 is an interior concept for fully autonomous ride-sharing vehicles that reflects the results of in-depth end-user research combined with the latest technologies from Yanfeng. It offers advanced technologies and product innovations in an intuitive design, providing flexibility and comfort for the autonomous rideshare passengers of tomorrow. As an industry leader, we have the capabilities to provide holistic total interior solutions for all mobility aspects. As we approached this iteration of the XiM20, we had to ask ourselves: If we choose to feature every product and technology available within this space, are we offering value? Our research said “no.” Instead, to design and develop interiors in this context, we needed to understand and craft experiences that are engaging and surprising, without being overly complex. For future mobility, this is where the opportunity lies.
We envisage the products to become simpler, authentic, without becoming simplistic. This could help with the delivery of services. The vehicle itself could become simpler, allowing the services around it to evolve. This, in turn, could enable service providers to influence the development of vehicles to suit their specific requirements.
In terms of sourcing parts and engineering services, what is the potential in countries like Serbia?
We really see high potential in Serbia and for this reason we opened the new plant for automotive interior components in Kragujevac last year. The good infrastructure in place and the availability of skilled workers in the Kragujevac region were key to select Serbia as a location. Another important factor in the decision to choose this location was its central position in Southeast and Central Europe and proximity to our other plants in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
With production ramping up over the next few months, we are an important employer in the Šumadija district and will continue to grow in Serbia. As announced, we had hired and trained 180 people in Kragujevac and now we already employ 275 people.
We understand that Adient is to sell its 30% stake in YFAI while Adient and Yanfeng are extending the term of their YFAS joint venture to 2038. In terms of your technology road map, will this change anything?
Indeed Yanfeng and Adient announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement to make certain changes to their existing joint venture relationships, including our Yanfeng Automotive Interiors (YFAI) joint venture. As part of this agreement, Yanfeng will buy Adient’s 30 percent ownership stake in YFAI, making it wholly-owned by Yanfeng.
This is an exciting next step for our company globally. This agreement underscores our shareholder’s confidence in the future of our global interiors business and is a key milestone in the execution of the overall Yanfeng Group strategy to leverage YFAI’s global platform and capabilities to grow other Yanfeng businesses outside of China.
At the same time, we have agreed to extend the term of our joint venture Yanfeng Adient Seating Co Ltd’s (YFAS) to December 2038. Yanfeng has deeply cultivated the domestic seating market for many years. The extension of the joint venture period will help our company maintain its leading position in the industry. Globalisation is the only way for the further development of Chinese automotive suppliers. As a pioneer, YFAI has accumulated a lot of valuable experience for Yanfeng’s global operations. Yanfeng will leverage all wholly-owned global interior platforms and resources, promote the globalization of other core businesses and achieve comprehensive development in an all-round way.