Patrick Koller, CEO of Faurecia since 2016, has led the French supplier of seating, interiors and clean mobility through a period of growth, most notably acquiring Japanese electronics company Clarion this year. He has established collaborations with Michelin, Microsoft and ZF Friedrichshafen. Koller, 60, talked with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Peter Sigal about how Faurecia is staying ahead of the technology curve. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Faurecia recently signed a collaboration agreement with Microsoft to provide digital services for the "cockpit of the future." What are some of those services?
A: We want to propose new consumer experiences inside the cockpit. So far, we have selected two areas: immersive gaming and the mobile office. We are also working on being able to upgrade functionalities over the air. I have spent a significant amount of time with Microsoft executives to make sure our vision is aligned, to see how to create mutual value through a flexible, agile cooperation, and developing innovations with a short time to market.
Will you sell to automakers or directly to consumers?
Both. We will need to have not only innovative products, but also innovative business models.
In what way?
Today, automakers are selling, for example, sound systems that have an acceptable level of sound for different types of music. But for someone focused on a certain type of music, such as opera, they won't get the best sound quality for this particular music type. Our proposal is to upgrade the sound system with settings for the kind of music you like. And we also have the option to increase the number of surfaces we activate for sound.
It's the same thing for the seats. We can install functionalities — massage for example — that can be activated over the air. Today, all of these functionalities are frozen when a consumer orders the vehicle for the entire life cycle of the car. But people are now used to getting upgrades over the air because that's how their smartphones work. Fewer and fewer people will accept such "frozen" functionalities. We will have to adapt to this. You could also add functionalities in the dealership after purchase, such as a smart headrest.