He said Lear will use the center to work on advance concepts for vehicles three to seven years away from production. Design and development of production projects will continue at Lear's nearby headquarters in suburban Detroit and other development centers around the world.
Simoncini said advanced seating design and applications for vehicle-to-vehicle communications and hybrid electric vehicles will be at the root of the r&d at the site.
He paid special attention to the role of a vehicle's seat in connectivity, saying it could come into play during a crash as it absorbs energy, adjusts the driver's spine appropriately or sends biometrics to an ambulance afterward.
"Intelligent seating is a game-changer," Simoncini said. "We're in preproduction with several car companies. I would expect certain aspects in three years, such as dynamic adjustment. That would put you in proper position for a person of your size and weight."
The six-story Lear Innovation Center eventually will be filled with about 100 employees, Simoncini said. The majority of the staff will be designers and engineers with some executives joining from the company's headquarters and another suburban Detroit operation.
Simoncini believes Lear's new innovation center can show off Detroit's capabilities. He has been a vocal advocate for the auto industry working to bring some automotive jobs back to Detroit from Mexico. Lear employs 45,000 workers in Mexico.
"We think there's a model that would work that would be able to provide jobs at an economic equation that makes sense for both the workers and for the car companies that are investing there.