Crain News Service
DETROIT - Automotive supplier Johnson Controls Inc. and toy maker Lego Systems Inc. have formed a strategic alliance to create child activity centers for vehicles.
The plastic centers pop up in the console of a rear seat and feature a stand to hold games or Lego building sets. The centers' sole function is to amuse children while their parents keep their eyes on the road, said Karl Kalcher, managing director of Lego Lifestyle International Ltd., a Lego subsidiary in Windsor, England.
Until now, Lego, based in Billund, Denmark, has not worked with automakers. But with the toy company moving into clothing and amusement parks, putting Lego products into vehicles was another step to expand, Kalcher said.
After all, according to Johnson Controls' research, children spend about 8 percent of their waking hours in a vehicle. Children get bored easily in a car for an extended stretch, said Larry Fieroh, executive director of marketing and business development for Johnson Controls' automotive interiors unit, based in Plymouth, Mich.
'Our customers are asking us to find the best uses for usable space in a vehicle,' Fieroh said. 'We've got a lot of options with this. Now, we need to fine-tune it.'
The companies, which made the joint announcement during the North American International Auto Show here, already have one prospective but unspecified carmaking customer, Fieroh said. The trademarked product, called PlaySeat, is undergoing product testing.
The activity center likely will be used in a minivan or sport-utility and go into production within three years, Fieroh said.