Although best known for manufacturing seats, door panels and headliners, Johnson Controls Inc. now supplies the complete cockpit system for the 2002 Jeep Liberty, and hopes to do more.

The cockpit system includes 11 main components: IP (instrument panel) trim, structural duct, climate control, steering column, pedals, air bags, clusters, audio, junction box (fuse panel), IP wire harness and body wire harness. Component suppliers number 35 and include Dow Automotive, Siemens Automotive, TRW Automotive and Valeo SA. DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s own Toledo Machine supplies the steering column, and its Huntsville, AL, plant supplies some audio systems.

Competitors with experience in electrical/electronic components, such as Delphi Automotive Systems, Visteon Corp., Siemens and Robert Bosch GmbH, have been eager to supply instrument panels.

But traditional interior suppliers, such as JCI, Lear Corp. and Faurecia of France, now have their eyes on the same market. Mike Lamach, group vice president and general manager for JCI Automotive Systems, says it's “all about vehicle harmony. The IP of today is not the IP of tomorrow, nor seat or door panel. When you design the entire cockpit versus just the IP or seat alone, you see how content gets redistributed.”

The cockpits are assembled at JCI's plant in Northwood, OH, and picked up by trucks from DCX's Toledo North Assembly plant approximately 10 miles north, home of the Liberty. Employees work two shifts a day with the capability of assembling 400 cockpits per shift. Currently production is running at just over 700 a day. The cockpit is not touched by human hands from the time it is put on a conveyor belt for packaging and shipment at Northwood to when it is put inside the Liberty.