Douglas Eriksen, 51, joined Recaro North America Inc. last September. He concluded one part of his mission last week by announcing a joint venture with Johnson Controls Inc. The deal will allow the German seat maker to boost its U.S. presence quickly through an established seating supplier.
Eriksen's plans also hinge on promoting Recaro seats as a health feature. In addition, he wants to rebuild Recaro's retail network by getting U.S. car dealers to sell Recaro seats.
He spoke recently with Managing Editor David Versical. Here are edited excerpts:
How do you square Recaro's image as a sporty-seat company with your goal of appealing to people with sore backs?
I think they're basically one and the same. As the brand-name recognition grows, you're going to see numerous health organizations - orthopedic doctors, surgeons, perhaps universities - giving documented support for our program. All of this will start to make sense to drivers. As our authorized Recaro dealer base spreads, and people can not only look at the product but can drive a vehicle with Recaro seats, they will instantaneously be able to experience the difference in seating.
Is the public clamoring for a more back-friendly car seat?
I don't think that the American public has really been educated or been made aware of the various attributes of quality seating.
With the world car concept growing, many cars are starting to look increasingly alike. The wave of the future in being able to differentiate vehicles will be in the interior. Forty-five percent of the total cost of an interior is in seats. With the other things, such as health and safety, I really feel that this is an opportune time to go forward.