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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | Auto interiors: Connecting functionality with a stylish flare
Auto interiors: Connecting functionality with a stylish flare
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Interior comfort often plays an important factor in buying a vehicle. At the same time, electronic content inside car cabin is rising. The seamless integration between the traditional products and electronics inside the car is triggering changes in materials, design and functionality of the interior components, says Rakesh Rao.
Interiors play an important role in vehicle design as it can help in reducing stress and increasing safety of the driver and co-occupants. Speaking at Center for Automotive Research’s seminar at Traverse City (USA) in August last year, Maria Helena Antolin Raybaud, Vice Chairman of Interiors Supplier of Grupo Antolin, said that vehicles of the future will become a person’s third most important living space after their house and workspace. In fact, many studies have found that interior comfort to be the second most important factor in choosing a vehicle, ranking ahead of exterior styling and just behind reliability and durability.
The integration of electronic content inside car cabin is seeing a tremendous growth in the connected and aspiring automotive industry. “The interactions between the car and driver become paradoxically more complex, not less. There may be less to drive, but there is more to monitor. Besides the road itself, with all that equipment - the instrument panel, the HMI, autonomous systems - suddenly the car becomes as much of a driving challenge. Thus, the automotive interior will morph from a cockpit ideal to that of a “lounge” (a more passive and relaxing and social place). Comfort and delight features such as touch panels, ambient light features and luminescent surfaces are also expected to become more widespread,” says P C Jayan, Director, Engineering, International Automotive Components (IAC).
Today’s car owners want features and functions of auto interior to not only make their life easier, but also give it a stylish flare. Sitangshu Nandy, Business Development and Program Management, IAC International Automotive India Pvt Ltd, informs, “Crafted interiors invoke the use of luxury components, most of which involve some sort of “Live stitch” and very tight Radii that will demonstrate more of craftsmanship. Personalisation will come into play starting from high segments and slowly percolating to mid segment cars. Improved haptics, while increasing mar, scratch and scuff resistance of the material will be a basic hygiene going forward.”
Increasing seamlessness between the traditional products and electronics inside the car requires changes in materials, design and functionality of the interior components. For example, in India, the soft-touch instrument panels are gaining a momentum in the market as the customers outlook is shifting from basic variants to value variants. Sudhir Mehta, Chairman & Managing Director, Pinnacle Industries Ltd, observes, “Commercial vehicle interiors industry is expected to witness changes in the near future as the customer today gives a lot of importance to individuality, comfort, style, luxury and overall design aesthetics. Shared mobility is also gaining momentum and that again will bring in a lot of transformation. Today, fleet operators and OEMs are looking at offering better design options, features and comfort to their end consumers. Also, the sudden boom in electric vehicles is also changing the dynamics with focus being driven more towards light weight seating systems. We will witness introduction of new materials, fabric, metals, etc., as weight and cost will become crucial.”
Given the growing urbanisation and increasing vehicles on road, shared mobility (Uber, Ola, etc) provides a significant alternative for commuters. This, in turn, offers immense opportunities for interiors business in areas like infotainment, comfort, ergonomy etc inside the car. Electrification too will have a good effect in terms of interiors getting more focus than before and becoming an unique value proposition for OEMs.
Sudhir Mehta states, “With shared mobility and electric vehicles gaining importance, automotive interiors are also expected to undergo changes. Now, more emphasis has to be given on safety, comfort and more personalised features to ensure a smooth, comfortable and convenient ride. There will be a rise in demand for increased storage space, noise-free and clutter-free interiors, light weighting of interiors, individualised seating and charging sockets, digital displays, etc. It is an interesting opportunity for us as we are a one stop solution for commercial vehicle interiors. Our expertise in design, development and manufacturing of automotive interiors for commercial vehicle segment ranging from roofing to flooring gives us an edge to excel.”
Gaining importance of autonomous (driverless) vehicles – along with shared mobility and electric vehicles - certainly augurs well for the companies in automotive interiors business.
“Advanced engineering teams are keeping a close eye on the emergence of ‘Autonomous Tech’ to better understand how it will change the consumer behaviour in the car, and in turn how they interact with the interiors. The interior space will now be defined with integrating the technologies to cater to the growing demand,” says Nandy.
Highlighting some of the India centric innovations for auto interiors, he says, “While many new technologies are specifically built for safety, some truly exciting entertainments could revolutionise not just the automotive industry but human transportation in general. Structural cockpits, lightweight console modules, lightweight and eco-friendly flooring system, natural and lightweight trims in the vehicles interiors, passenger safety with air bag modules, etc are some of our products that we manufacture and supply to various domestic OEMs.”
Sluggish, yet promising market
According to Sudhir Mehta, commercial vehicle seating and interior systems, in the last decade, has made significant advancement by progressing towards technical alignment with international safety standards. “With increasing focus on customers’ demand for individualisation, comfort and luxury, the industry will witness trends like power seats, light-weight and economical material usage, introduction of new fabrics, compact designs, etc,” he adds.
While the current sluggish auto sales are impacting suppliers (including auto interior providers), launch of new models and upgradation of existing variants is offering business opportunities for companies. P C Jayan comments, “Automotive volume has been going through the sluggish growth due to various factors, but the market is having constant upgrade and new models that are being launched with more features and personalised interior space which are more integrated to the current user demands and expectations eating into the same space. There is no one in the industry that is not affected. The slowdown gives us time and opportunity to look into smarter ways of doing business; it allows us to think innovative.”
Speaking about IAC growth plans, he says, “We will be doing same as what we do today, relentlessly work on opportunities for integration, innovative technologies and India-genizing concepts to suit for local customer needs. There will be more and more opportunities in future through innovation that will come into interior space, as said earlier like personalisation of displays, colour section, lighting, and modular interiors. Such demands will be defining the future of interior. We just need to be smarter to see as how we can realign our manufacturing and engineering to cater to the end customers’ needs.”
Inspite of current slowdown, India remains one of the fastest growing automotive markets. By focusing on R&D, auto interior suppliers are gearing up to deliver products that meet the evolving market needs, thus fuelling the market growth.
- The automotive interior will morph from a cockpit ideal to that of a “lounge” (a more passive and relaxing and social place). Comfort and delight features such as touch panels, ambient light features and luminescent surfaces are also expected to become more widespread. P C Jayan, Director, Engineering, International Automotive Components (IAC)
While many new technologies are specifically built for safety, some truly exciting entertainments could revolutionise not just the automotive industry but human transportation in general. Sitangshu Nandy, Business Development and Program Management, IAC International Automotive India Pvt Ltd
Commercial vehicle interiors industry is expected to witness changes in the near future as the customer today gives a lot of importance to individuality, comfort, style, luxury and overall design aesthetics.
Sudhir Mehta, CMD, Pinnacle Industries Ltd
Automotive Research Seminar
IAC International Automotive India
Commercial Vehicle Interiors Industry
P C Jayan
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