Supplier powerhouses Faurecia and Magneti Marelli have joined forces to challenge rivals such as Continental, Delphi, Denso and Harman in the booming and lucrative sector for human-machine interface applications. Faurecia and Magneti Marelli will cooperate on the design, development and manufacturing of advanced HMI products.
The partnership, which was announced in November, should help the two companies gain a foothold in the rapidly developing and profitable sub-sector of the vehicle interiors business, Frost & Sullivan analyst Krishna Jayaraman said.
"The only thing that gives brand definition in this area is HMI, so it makes sense that they want to move into this new domain," Jayaraman said. "It is a first baby step for both of them, but it is a very wise decision by them to go where the revenue model is today.
Through the agreement, the companies initially plan to develop solutions that support the seamless integration of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, in instrument panels, center consoles and docking stations. France-based Faurecia, in which PSA/Peugeot-Citroen has a 57 percent stake, already offers wireless-charging components through its partnership with Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions, while Italy-based Magneti Marelli, which is fully owned by Fiat Group, will extend its automotive electronics capability with the introduction of complete voice, touch and display HMI solutions
"This is an important step in the evolution of our interior systems offer to meet the needs of automakers for increased connectivity and the intelligent use of interior architecture," Faurecia CEO Yann Delabriere said in a statement. His counterpart at Magneti Marelli, CEO Eugenio Razelli, highlighted the value of the agreement at a time when "the user experience of receiving, managing and sharing information inside the car is moving to a unique, interactive and extended interface, where the merger between plastics and electronics is crucial."
The partners say they are already actively pursuing their first business applications with European, North American and Asian automakers in the fields of high-quality retractable touchscreens and the integration of nomadic devices. Giuseppe Rosso, head Magneti Marelli's infotainment and telematics division, told Automotive News Europe: "We are close to having the first applications with a couple of OEMs," but he declined to disclose with which manufacturers.
Asked how the agreement would work in practical terms, Rosso said that at the beginning the activity will be mainly focused on the technical side and on the development side, while in a second step the parties intend to establish an even closer working relationship. "Our plan is to start production in 2016 of the first applications," Rosso added.
Explaining the logic behind the agreement, Rosso said: "The market perimeter of in-vehicle information and HMI complete solutions is expanding and becoming more and more of a strategic asset for OEMs to sell their cars.
But what was even more interesting, he added, was that the rapidly evolving market now required "a merger of different capabilities and know-how to satisfy the new and advanced demand by carmakers." The core value of the agreement between Marelli and Faurecia, therefore, would be the ability to bring a new approach to the market based on new types of systems involving a deep integration between plastics and electronics.
Touchscreens often use a capacitive film for interaction, and plastics suppliers have been researching ways to best insert those films during molding to fit them into high volume production, while also integrating the screens in interior systems.