Lear Investment Highlighted in Wards Automotive ‘Big Story’

  • April 18, 2017

  • Automotive Interiors: From Steel to Spider Webs, by Drew Winter

    The Lexus UX Concept CUV introduced at the Paris auto show last year is noteworthy for several reasons: It features an unusual bare-bones “deconstructed” interior design; a separate world premier was staged at the motor show just for a more refined version of the vehicle’s seats; and the seat material is made from spider webs...

    It’s unlikely this idea will show up in production soon, but it illustrates how hard automakers are looking for new ways to impress consumers with style and comfort while chopping weight at the same time. In a move that underscores how focused interior suppliers – in addition to OEMs – are on reducing weight, Lear became the first automotive Tier 1 to license NanoSteel products.

    While not as exotic as synthetic spider webs, NanoSteel has developed a family of advanced high-strength steel alloys that feature a special combination of very high strength with the enhanced formability normally found only in low-strength mild steels, says Craig Parsons, president-Automotive.

    The blend of properties gives designers the ability to optimize part geometries resulting in thinner, lighter components and allows part producers to avoid costly production processes, such as stamping shapes at high temperature when forming new designs. And even highly sophisticated steel grades typically remain much less expensive than alternative lightweight materials such as aluminum, magnesium, advanced composites – or QMONOS.

    Parsons won’t comment on exactly what type of components Lear is interested in, but Lear CEO Matthew Simoncini says he is optimistic about NanoSteel’s AHSS ability to contribute lighter materials for vehicle seating structures. Even though the industry is obsessed with how autonomy will impact vehicle interiors in 2025 or 2030, reducing weight is but one of the powerful forces reshaping vehicles and the supply chain right now.

    Designers and engineers are cooking up a mind boggling array of new materials, seats and user experiences aimed at surprising and delighting future car buyers, but let’s start with the startling impact wealthy Chinese consumers are making on interior vehicle design and the manufacturing supply chain.

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