As automotive design and technologies accelerate, vehicle interiors will take center stage to personalize users' experiences as the industry continues to shift toward mobility and electric vehicle trends.
Modern vehicle interiors contribute more to changes between vehicle model years while exteriors stay largely the same for most OEMs, Karim Chaiblaine, vice president of marketing and business development of interiors systems at Faurecia North America, said at Plastics News' Plastics in Automotive virtual edition May 27.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, OEMs are working to establish trust with consumers of mobility and ride-sharing and ride-hailing services required Faurecia to work on solutions for in-cabin sanitization, Chaiblaine said.
"Public transit and mobility providers [like] Uber or the authorities which deploy public transportation in cities … those providers have lost 80 percent of their traditional businesses," he said. "This context has led to strong societal pressure for climate change sustainability and increased health awareness."
As vaccination rates go up, consumers will expect to see visible signs of health safety in shared mobility settings, such as a plastic separator and sanitization technology, Chaiblaine said.
Mobility services are also expected to move toward more sustainable services like "delivering food instead of transporting people," he added, as consumers are now more conscious of the possibility future pandemics.
Consumers have also become more environmentally conscious amid the pandemic, Chaiblaine said.
"We're seeing government carbon-neutral initiatives … accelerated electrification through regulations and incentives and increased connectivity via consumer demand," he said.
Through customer insight, Faurecia hopes to deliver concepts "without losing sight of the original user needs," he added.
"The perceived value is shifting from hardware to software," Chaiblaine said. "The hardware becomes less important for the end user" as consumers "come to see the car as a connected computers on wheels."
Regular software updates are allowing car models to be refreshed for consumers more frequently, he said, requiring interiors to last longer as the display becomes the cornerstone or centerpiece of a vehicle cockpit with "infinite" software upgrades.
Services-orientated interior architecture should be based on consumers' perceptions and expected experiences, Chaiblaine said.
Interiors that are used for extended trips might have the comfort of a living room, offering opportunities for social media use, gaming and productivity, he added.
"We bring the user experience at the forefront in order to find the right technology," Chaiblaine said. "We need to deliver solutions which brings the interior to an environment that can be leveraged [as] your home to your car, to your office."
Faurecia's product line of cockpit electronics, display technologies, instrument panels, complete seats, cockpit modules, seat structure systems, door panels, smart surfaces and consoles, and covers and foam systems are made to personalize the experience for consumers, Chaiblaine said.
In order to integrate consumer-personalized solutions into the "cockpit of the future," those products also need to be affordable "in order to be effective," he said.
"The business environment for the mobility industry is strongly based on the solidity of the ecosystem," Chaiblaine said.
Faurecia is accelerating partnerships to build affordable and sustainable capabilities that allow for more flexibility, time savings and cost reduction.
The company, with global headquarters in France, invested $720 million (607 million euros) over the last three years in research and development and expects to invest $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euros) in sustainable technologies from 2021 to 2025.
"We are in an environment with a pace of innovation that is very high," Chaiblaine said.
Processes and capabilities are "the backbone" of integrating "technology into a seamless, efficient approach with short time to market," he said. "Model-based system and generating is the right tool in order to have a flawless development between the different partners in the ecosystem."