Top trends - Q&A with Magna Car Top Systems

By Matthew Beecham | 7 October 2019

Uwe Behrendt

Uwe Behrendt

For some time, we have observed how the small, rectangle-shaped car roof window is being outshone by more eye-catching roof designs. The design emphasis these days is less on the old tilt and slide sunroofs and more on glass roofs stretching the length of the car and smart combinations of convertible and glass roofs. Magna Car Top Systems, an operating unit of Magna is a global leader of open-air roof systems.  To learn more about trends in the sunroof market, we caught up with Uwe Behrendt, Director of Sales for Magna Car Top Systems.

What trends are you observing in roof designs?

What we see on the market right now is demand for retractable hard tops is decreasing. We are still seeing retractable hard tops in the super sport cars like Ferraris. The soft top, however, dominates the market for luxury cars and 'normal' two-seater vehicles. That is not because retractable hard tops are poor, it's more that the soft tops are getting better in terms of performance.

We are also realising sliding folding roofs are getting more requested, especially on the SUV market. This is due to the higher opening; the higher opening gives you better open air driving than a panoramic roof with a smaller opening. So it's a perfect solution for the A and B segment cars as well as for SUVs.

Where are the biggest opportunities for panoramic roofs?

There will still be a big market for panoramic roofs, openable as well fixed. We will see more fixed panoramic roofs which gives you the sunlight but not the opportunity to open it. A big opportunity for the panoramic market itself is also the smaller cars. We have a very high take rate on the luxury cars, particularly in China.

We have seen a few advances made recently in the area of soft-top sound insulation. Could you give us an idea of how Magna is addressing this area?

Car makers are placing a lot of focus on this area. We offer different types of insulation to achieve a better acoustic in the car. It is not necessarily always as quiet as possible, sometimes it's also to support a certain sound level. So with different layers/material we can support this, and obviously a two-seater might have different sound expectations than a four-seater luxury car.

We recently launched the soft top for BMW – the 8 Series.  It has a strong focus on noise insulation. Using our expertise, we combined different materials to create the right cabin sound.

At the most recent IAA show, we learned about new mobility solutions. To what extent will they impact roof design?

There was indeed a lot of focus on new mobility solutions yet it is a very broad term. There are different aspects to it. Just taking the car sharing as an example, we can imagine that if people are using not always the same car that there will be more requests to choose special cars with specific roof systems. I believe there are people who would like to drive a convertible from time to time but cannot afford to buy one, so that is an opportunity for the convertible and even the sliding folding roof market.

In developing roofs for electric cars, what are the special considerations?

What we are talking right now about electric cars and sound is another important point. Because you have less noise from the drivetrain, from the powertrain, so you hear different things. So, squeak and rattle might be more in the focus because you hear other sounds. What we also see for electric cars is weight reduction and package. So the package requirements remain challenging, even you could imagine there's no engine so there should be more space for the roof, but the space will be used for other things.  For the cabin noise, there will still be a focus on it.

What is your vision of roof designs in a Level 5 car?

Today, there is an element of joy driving a car with a soft top or panoramic glass roof. If you don't drive anymore, however, then there will be the joy of being driven for all vehicle occupants. While I can still imagine that there will be a glass roof - based on today's concept cars with openable and fixed designs – we should expect to see the Level 5 car featuring a 'campfire' seating arrangement with monitors and displays integrated into the roof.

Although solar cells on car roofs remain topical, such novelties have yet to gain mass-market appeal. What's your view?

Solar cells are making some sense and if it could be really used to recharge the battery that would be another step. But we are not at the stage that this really is currently an option, but it can be used to give some additional energy for air conditioning or other electrical loads. Therefore, we expect that there will be some solar cells on the roofs in the future, and we know in our discussions that there will be. It is also a kind of a philosophy of the car maker, if they want to have it, and gives this advantage of some additional energy because it is not really a must-have, but it's maybe a good opportunity in the car in the regions where there is a lot of sun and the car is standing on the airport for two days or so and can at least be used to keep the battery fresh or give some energy for other things to recharge.