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GERMANY: Johnson Controls supplying Ford B-MAX seats

By Graeme Roberts | 27 September 2012

JCI adapted front seats with built-in seat belts usually used in coupes and convertibles for Fords new B-pillarless B-MAX. Its solution is much better than the rear door-mounted front passenger belts on the original pillarless Honda Element sold in North America earlier this decade

JCI adapted front seats with built-in seat belts usually used in coupes and convertibles for Ford's new B-pillarless B-MAX. Its 'solution is much better than the rear door-mounted front passenger belts on the original pillarless Honda Element sold in North America earlier this decade

A few months after production of Ford's new B-MAX MPV (minivan) began in Romania last June, Johnson Controls (JCI), as is customary for most OEM suppliers, has announced full details of the complete seating system it is supplying.

"Johnson Controls has developed an innovative seating system for the equally innovative B-MAX that is both sporty and elegant. We are proud to contribute to the value of this new minivan with our expertise," said Beda Bolzenius, president of Johnson Controls Automotive Experience, the interiors and cockpits division.

The B-MAX has no B-pillars, for easier entry and exit. Ford itself has touted the body design that maintains rigidity and crash performance without the pillars and, of course, a special 'solution' was required to mount the front occupants' seat belts. So JCI developed front seats with integrated seatbelt mountings, without compromising safety. Until now, such seats, referred to as integrated belt seats, were found primarily in sporty coupes and convertibles.

The passenger seat can be folded over flat, like the split rear seat bench. This creates additional cargo space and makes it easier to load long items.

JCI supplies the seats in either fabric or part leather with a bi-colour design. Buyers can also opt for all-leather upholstery. [Here in the UK, only part-leather is offered, and only on the top GBP17,595 Titanium as part of a GBP600 option pack that also adds heated front seats and upgraded alloy wheels - ed]

JCI also developed and produces the metal structures for the front and rear seats. The seat tracks from the supplier's CRH brand offer a feature claimed to be unique in the minivan segment: a permanent engagement latch. This allows the front seats to be locked into place after they are adjusted with at least one locking element per track. This technology which previously had been found only in higher vehicle segments increases passenger safety, the supplier said.

In January 2012, JCI opened a seat plant in Craiova, Romania, specifically to supply the nearby Ford plant via a just-in-time process.

It a;sp manufactures the minivan's seat components in Romania: metal parts are made in the former C Rob Hammerstein plant in Jimbolia; foam components for seat pads are made in the former Spumotim factory in Timi  oara; and the seat covers are made in Pite  ti.

With the integration of metal specialist C Rob Hammerstein and the automotive division of foam specialist Spumotim, JCI therefore can offer key seating components to Romania's growing number of OEM factories from a single source.