Disruptive technologies drive automotive seating systems
Seating system, the platform designed and developed to accommodate people driving or travelling in a vehicle, is undergoing revolutionary changes. Seating has evolved through simple systems to complex masterpieces to meet the expectations of both the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and the customers. Automotive seating industry is moving on disruptive technologies.
According to the latest market study, ‘Global Automotive Seats Market 2017-2021’, released by Technavio, the global automotive seats market is expected to reach USD 414.40 million by 2021, growing at a CAGR of almost 5%. There is an increasing use of lightweight materials in automotive seat systems as OEMs are trying to increase fuel efficiency and meet the increasing demand for safety and functional features in cars. The lightweight measures will help reduce CO emissions and provide better fuel economy. The growing demand for better interior seating in compact and subcompact cars has prompted OEMs to promote more research on automotive seats and integrate them with the vehicles.
The automotive seating market is a highly consolidated and dominated by major multinational companies. Vehicle seats are designed, innovated, manufactured and marketed by dedicated companies. like Adient plc, Lear Corporation, Faurecia and Grupo Antolin. These companies together hold more than two-thirds of the market share across the globe. These groups have aggressively acquired many companies in the last few decades to achieve vertical integration which also enabled these companies to streamline their supply chains and capture major market shares. The market is characterized by tight competition among the tier-1 companies. The top companies have tightened their market grip by undergoing strategic changes like Johnson Controls which has spun off its automotive experience division that included seating and named the newly formed entity as Adient plc.
Though the conventional designs are still in use in the automotive industry, multinational and national companies have started to design new layouts that have substantially modified and altered the seating systems. More luxury modifications have been introduced into seating systems to ensure comfort, safety and relaxing experiences of the customers while driving or travelling.
The automotive seat market is being driven by the growth in the production and sales of cross over models and sport utility vehicles
(SUV) as these type of vehicles have more seating content than other types of passenger vehicles such as Sedans and hatchbacks. Increasing vehicle models, segments and their production, and the I accent on safety features drive the seating companies. Changing regulations, consumer needs and preferences also affect the market dynamics. The high growth in the sales of SUVs and the ongoing trend of vehicle light weighting is driving the automotive seats market.
In India, along with the growth of the automotive industry mainly through foreign direct investments, the seating industry has made significant headway. In the Cover Story of the current issue we have highlighted some of those companies.
Harita Fehrer Limited, a joint venture between Harita Seating Systems Limited, and F S Fehrer Automotive GmbH, Germany, provides complete seating solutions for automotive applications with new technologies like Foam in Place (FIP) and spray skin. Harita Fehrer manufactures two-wheeler seats, microcellular urethanes, polyurethane composites, and foaming for passenger car seats. “The customer expectations have increased over the years and Harita Fehrer has established itself as a complete solution provider in meeting this demand,“A G Giridharan, President, Harita Fehrer Limited, said.
Pinnacle Industries Limited, the bus seating and interior company, with the support of its new division, Pinnacle Speciality Vehicles, offers cosmetic changes to complete transformations for commercial and personal vehicles. “Comfort will always remain as a trend in the Indian market. It will be mostly in the bus segment, where people travel for a longer distance. With the electric vehicles coming in, light weighting is becoming more important now. This is because the weight will become a major criterion now. With this, the seats are getting lighter. Another major trend is that, many are focussed on the safety parameters. For the upcoming trends, we have made light-weight seats. We have planned to use more aluminium in seats, to make them much lighter,” says Sudhir Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director, Pinnacle Industries.
Niemla Automotive, manufacturer and supplier of automobile seat cover, has developed light-weighted flat jacquard fabric which claims to improve the fuel efficiency of a bus. Niemla supplies fabric for both the seating of passenger vehicles and interiors of buses, Armaan Mehra, CEO, Niemla Automotive, said.
The Germany-based seating system manufacturer Franz Kiel GmbH (fkt) is planning to set up a new production facility near Bengaluru. “By looking at the potential in the Indian market, we have decided to set up a manufacturing facility here. We may start the SOP by next year and are looking at every possibility that includes working alone or with a partner. Our aim is to increase safety and comfort for passengers with first-class products and meet the responsibility to the environment through innovative developments and efficient manufacturing processes,” Omer Cavusoglu, International Business Development Consultant, fkt, said.
Fasching Salzburg GmbH, the Austria-based safety belt manufacturer, eyes the growing Indian bus and truck market. Fasching develops and produces safety belts mainly for buses, coaches, LCVs, trucks and wheelchair applications. It offers a wide range of safety-belts and specialises in two-point, threepoint and special belts in different versions and technologies like static, ALR, ELR and buckles. “We are planning to invest around 10 million euro for a new facility. Setting up a manufacturing base in India will open new avenues for us,” Harald Pessl, Director, Fasching Salzburg GmbH, said.
Dhama Seating Technologies, a subsidiary of Dhama Innovations, is supplying temperature-controlled smart seating, ClimaCon, to commercial vehicles. ClimaCon is a patented technology of Dhama which runs on power and allows regulating seat temperatures from 32° F to 140° F.