New Innovations Will Drive Global Seating Market

New Innovations Will Drive Global Seating Market – Brief Article

The global automotive seating market is worth some $27 billion annually, according to a recent report. The report, published by just-auto.com, states that suppliers are increasingly having to offer seats that are more comfortable, durable and safer than ever before, as well as being lighter and cheaper too.

The major technical advances in vehicle seating during the 1990s, include adjustable lumbar supports, massage systems, climate control systems, memory mechanisms, height and rake adjustments, self-positioning head rests, built-in seatbelts and airbags.

In the U.S., the rising demand for sport utility vehicles has brought with it a surge in demand for seat heaters. Carmakers are offering seat heaters which warm nearly every part of the seat, the report stated. The fact that seat heater penetration in North America is still around 15 percent and in Europe it is only just around 10 percent (although it is slightly higher in Germany) suggests that there is great potential for growth, according to the report. While the market for seat heating is increasing, demand for seat cooling is also expected to gather momentum. The report states that seat cooling will become more popular than heating and more affordable by the end of this decade.

As more features migrate from the front seats to the back, the challenge for designers is to find novel ways to package these products, such as curtain airbags in headliners, fold-down garment hooks and DVD players.

While rear seat head restraints gained popularity in Europe during the 1990s, they are increasingly fitted to U.S.-built cars as optional features. Many U.S. manufacturers believe that they will soon become standard features on production vehicles, the report said.

As consumers demand more flexibility from their vehicles, suppliers must find yet more new ways to collapse the rear seat rows, according to the report. An important emerging customer base that places a high priority on the total interior package of their new vehicles is the so-called Generation Y group. In the U.S. alone, there are some 60 million people born between 1979 and 1994.

Interior designers are paying special attention to this group of consumers because they represent the country’s largest group of first time car buyers.

To some consumers, comfort is not just a luxury, it’s a health issue for those who suffer from back aches and pains. As a result, massage features are gaining momentum, the report found. The Japanese market is some years ahead of Europe and the U.S. in terms of seat features.

Following changes in Federal and European legislation, some features already present in Japan, are beginning to find their way into the U.S. and European SUV markets.

Despite some lightweight seat frame innovations, its certain that steel will remain the material of choice through this decade, according to the report. The switch to new processes not only involves a huge investment in tooling and facilities, but considerable amount of expenditure on the re-education of engineers. While thin profile seats with a mesh for the occupant to sit on rather than a foam cushion certainly saves weight, they are unlikely to see widespread application in the front of U.S. cars because of forthcoming legislation requiring advanced airbag technology.

Overall, despite the slowing U.S. vehicle market, demand for novel seating technology shows no sign of easing up proving that innovation, not vehicle production, will drive the market value of the automotive seat business, the report concludes.

Manufacturers in this study include Johnson Controls, Lear and Magna International, the French group Faurecia, and the Japanese seat manufacturer Tachi-S.

COPYRIGHT 2002 International Trade Services

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group