Name the top worldwide automakers? Easy. How about the leading global manufacturer of car seats? It might not be a commonly known brand, but Adient is at the top of its game. “The automotive seating business alone reported $16.5 billion in (2015) sales, but the business includes a variety of global joint ventures that mean its sales were actually much bigger,” according to news reports (The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel). “Joint venture-related sales included $8.5 billion in non-seating car interiors products and $6.6 billion in China seating joint ventures,” the publication reported.
Adient says one in every three auto seats in the world comes from its facilities, a number representing seats and components for 25 million vehicles annually. Adient was spun off from Johnson Controls (Wisconsin, U.S.) a multinational conglomerate, as an independent company in October 2016, and reported recently that its first quarter net income as a stand-alone increased 8.7 percent to $149 million. Sales were up notably in South America (19%) and 17% in Asia and China (Adient already has a leading 44% market share in China, according to company statements). Adient has manufacturing facilities and development centers throughout the world. The company CEO and some top managers are based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
At the 2017 NAIAS (North American International Show) Adient debuted
its AI17 driving seating system that imagines the driver and passenger experience in an automated driving environment.
As autonomous vehicles and automated driving become a closer transportation reality, what goes on inside the occupants’ space, considerations including safety, comfort and convenience, takes on greater importance. The flexibility of seating and attention to general interior space will take on a bigger role as more non-driving (as we know it) activities increase along with vehicles’ computer-driven capabilities.
According to Adient VP of Innovation, Richard Chung, the AI17 showcases solutions for level-3 and level-4 autonomous vehicles that forecast how enjoyable future interiors will be.
"Based on extensive market and consumer research, the products in the demonstrator have been carefully designed with a modular approach to accommodate a wide range of vehicles and enable differentiation by segment," said Mr. Chung.
Adient’s automated driving seating system includes a number of remarkable features and innovations including: a swiveling, rotational base platform to create a “greeting/conversation” mode; a conceptual front seat, designed for safety and comfort, that can recline “with the occupant's body and is supported even as it reclines beyond the traditional range,” and a cantilevered rear seat structure that ups the comfort ante for rear-seated passengers. Rear-seat leg rests, a front-to-back cushioned console, and
customizable head restraints are also part of the interior cabin design.
Another major trend in the automotive seating industry, indeed in the entire auto and aerospace manufacturing sectors, is lightweighting--the continuing development and application of alternative, advanced materials to reduce vehicular weight and increase fuel efficiency. Adient executive spokesmen commented on how magnesium, for example, could help determine the shape, look and performance of tomorrow's car seats.
Noting magnesium’s lightness, 75% lighter than steel, 33% lighter than aluminum, Adient says that of all structural materials the metal can be key in improving fuel economy while maintaining structural integrity. The company offers a new lightweight cast magnesium seat structure that exhibits good strength-to-weight ratio, design flexibility and excellent dimensional stability, plus high dent- and impact resistance.
Adient has used a wide range of technologies to reduce the overall weight of its seats by 20-30 % over the past 10 years (e.g. in 2010 a front seat structure weighed 14 kilograms; in 2015, that was reduced to around 10 kilograms. The company says its “express goal is to reduce the weight to well under 10 kilograms by 2020, while simultaneously making the automotive seat more and more like a multifunctional element with diverse electronic adjustment options and technical features. Our designers are faced with the challenge of combining this with the need for a reduction in weight. And, of course, with ensuring that these seats also meet the highest safety and quality standards.”
Copyright notice: Reproduction of material without written permission is strictly prohibited.