Lightweighting is still on the menu for OEMs looking to reduce emissions, and interiors remain a key target in that area. Faurecia sees material choice staying relevant even as the market shifts toward OEMs bringing more engineering and design in-house, and plans to capitalize on that with its proprietary materials.
“If we can take 30 percent out of the mass of a typical injection molded component through design and through material selections … then we offer something that the competition can't, that can be incorporated by the OEMs even if they're doing packaging and the basic design,” Stidham said.
The company sees continuing design potential in plastics, something OEMs look for as they strive to differentiate their product from their competitors'.
“If you look at the interior of a vehicle today, plastics still offers a lot of great flexibility in terms of geometry,” said Jay Hutchins, director of marketing with Faurecia Interior Systems. “When you're injection molding parts, you have a lot of flexibility in the shapes you can design and you can execute, vs., say, compression molded technologies.”
Faurecia is also working to improve efficiency throughout the company, in part through a strategy of standardization. Standardizing processes and equipment enables the company to cut costs while still providing the meet the individual design needs of its customers, Hutchins said.
“The aesthetic appearance, the design theme within a vehicle interior is really critical to the overall execution of the product at the OEM level,” he said. “We have a need to standardize process, but we still have to manage the flexibility of different designs within the interiors.”
One of the largest automotive suppliers in North America and the world, France-headquartered Faurecia operates business units in automotive seating, interiors systems, emissions control technologies and automotive exteriors. Its interiors division supplies a variety of products including instrument panels, door consoles and decorative trim. Future expansions will likely be targeted around growing the company's geographical footprint, adding more locations closer to customers, the executives said.
“The more diverse our portfolio is with customers and with programs and within regions, the better it allows us to handle the fluctuations that happen within the business cycles in specific regions,” Hutchins said. “Having that diversity allows us to weather the storm a little bit.”
More than weather the storm, Faurecia plans to come out stronger.
“It's no secret that margins have been compressed in this particular industry, and so to have a large company like Faurecia that has never lost its commitment to the interiors space, and being part of that space and industry going forward, I think, is an assurance to our customers,” Stidham said. “So we're going to capitalize on that.”