Automotive Seating Survey Results
Automotive IQ surveyed our international contacts working in the field of seating in order to learn what the experts believe are the major drivers of innovation, the biggest challenges for weight reduction and the latest developments in this segment as well as an R&D outlook. We also asked our contacts to give us some specific insight about the latest trends in seating and some of the answers caught us by surprise.
Drivers of Innovation
Given that a car’s seats account for 5% of the vehicle’s total cost and roughly 6% of its weight, the Automotive IQ team expected cost reduction and reducing C02 to rank highly as drivers of innovation for seat designers and seating departments.
Not surprisingly, respondents did list cost as the overall main driver of innovation with approximately 51% choosing it. More interestingly, of those working for OEM companies, 77% chose cost. Our survey also revealed that the desire for features as well as the need to design for safety regulations are actually greater drivers of innovation in seating than a need for C02 reduction.
Challenges for Weight Reduction
Our survey was inconclusive in determining the greatest challenge for weight reduction in the seats. There was no significant statistical difference among the challenges posed by the cost of materials, safety requirements or comfort requirements.
Recent Developments & Upcoming Trends
Although there have been a number of presentations recently around ‘measuring comfort’ in more objective ways, the two most important areas for recent development in automotive seating are new materials for seat design (51%) and New technology integrated in the seat (46%). With more and more innovation coming from the fibers and textiles industry, integrating functions right into the seats will provide a lot of design possibilities in the near future. Additionally, seats that can measure body functions (such as heart rate and rhythm) may provide another exciting area of development.
When asked about upcoming trends in seating, the latter mentioned functionality where the seat may be used as a health tool came up in several responses but the dominant trend seems to be toward lightweight materials and balancing that with safety regulations. Although weight reduction was not a dominant challenge, it appears to be a very important trend indicating that there are plenty of innovations ready to meet the need.
The R&D trend for 2014 is positive in terms of an overall increase in spending. Although 63% said that their companies are keeping R&D spending at the same level as 2013, less than 10% of those surveyed noted a reduction in spending. With so many areas for development such as lightweight materials, cost reduction, built in functionality and regulations both weight emissions and safety with which to comply, it is important that companies continue to invest to meet the challenges facing the automotive industry.
To learn more about the latest technologies and issues, join us at the 9th International Innovative Seating Conferencein Dýsseldorf, Germany.
Will Hornick is the Managing Editor of Automotive IQ