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JCI woos Europeans with concepts

Johnson Controls Inc. wants to work more closely with carmakers on vehicle interior design.

Johnson Controls’ European design center in Cologne, Germany, created the concepts, called Ariston and Etimos.

“Carmakers need to form partnerships with high-quality, intuitive suppliers very early on,” says David Muyres, Johnson Controls’ European and international vice president for design and consumer research.

“If we are going to be involved earlier and earlier, we need to be able to improve our understanding of consumer tastes,” he says.

Johnson Controls has been working on industrial design in Europe for several years and relies heavily on consumer research to develop and refine ideas.

The supplier has an in-house research department to identify trends in consumer tastes and develop innovations. The department uses outside agencies to do consumer research.

Future of luxury

For example, Johnson Controls commissioned a study that asked people how they would visualize luxury.

“Wood, chrome and leather are the standard auto industry icons, but how do you go beyond that and envision luxury in a new way?” asked Muyres.

The Ariston interior concept shows how Johnson Controls expects the luxury market to evolve.

Muyres says Johnson Controls sought a “two-generations out” solution for a vehicle as a home-away-from-home and mobile office in one. Ariston features integrated hidden technology, a study of luxury materials and looks at how a car’s interior can be redefined.

“It does not have every mechanical solution in it,” said Muyres, “but this is where we see luxury going.”

The other concept, Etimos, looks at how a family car might develop. The design follows a study that asked people about their expectations for a family car in 2005.

The Etimos’ interior includes integrated DVD screens in the rear of the front seats, an activity center for children and removable storage modules in the doors. It also features in-mold graining that can provide uniform graining effects on cockpit surfaces.

Low on ‘wow’

“We have pre-thought engineering, costs and safety on these ideas,” said Muyres. “Maybe it’s not as high a ‘wow’ factor but it has got a lot more real things we can partner with our customers and put right into their cars.”

The theme for the interior, says Muyres, balances “the head and the heart.” It uses warm, welcoming colors.

“It’s a rational yet emotional interior,” he adds.

Johnson Controls has a staff of 70 working on interior design in Europe, more than the interior design teams at many carmakers.

“We have invested heavily in our own industrial design activity,” Muyres said. “At least three carmakers have our design staff working in their studios.”

Despite the investment, Johnson Controls’ strategy is not to compete with design houses.

Said Muyres: “We want to be partners, we want to work together. In the end we are a manufacturing company, and we make all our money from manufacturing. We don’t want to take credit. We just want to make the product look better.”

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