More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – Johnson Controls Inc.'s research has found consumers growing impatient as they interact with so-called "conveniences" in today's vehicles.

A power sliding door on a minivan, for example can take 6 to 8 seconds to open. And power windows in fullsize pickups and SUVs can take what seems like forever to close. The Ford Expedition's unique innovation a few years ago was a power folding third-row seat. Problem is, it takes a glacial 18 seconds to fold flat.

Seating giant JCI now has a product geared toward impatient motorists, and the supplier promises it will be cost competitive with existing technology.

JCI’s FastForward concept interior allows fold-flat load floor large enough for full sheet of plywood.

JCI's FastForward Seating System, on display here at the North American International Auto Show, allows second- and third-row seats to fold flat in a mere 10 seconds. The seat backs form a flat load floor convenient for plywood and other sizeable cargo.

"Speed is an issue," says David Ekern, JCI's seating business product portfolio manager. "If you're coming out of Home Depot and you have a lot of stuff to put in your vehicle, why would you want to wait 20 seconds?"

The system can be controlled by the push of a button installed in the cargo area or placed on a key fob for added convenience. Anti-pinch sensors are installed in the third-row seats to prevent them from closing down on an object or a person.

At the show, the concept is installed in a standard-wheelbase Nissan Quest minivan. JCI supplies the seats for the current-generation Quest. The concept also works for other fullsize SUVs.

Besides folding flat quickly, FastForward also improves comfort. The seats benefit from JCI’s patented Open Seating technology, which debuted at the 2004 NAIAS and allows contouring that is uncommon for third-row bench seats.

Traditionally, third-row seats are rigid, square and uncomfortable, unlike bucket seats common for front-row occupants. Open Seating uses JCI’s patented Vibratech foam, which is one-third thinner than traditional seating foam and more comfortable.

Plus, the seat frame changes shape as it folds forward, providing a flatter surface that saves space. Legroom is ample in the third-row seat of the FastForward concept minivan because the seats have been moved rearward a few inches. However, headroom suffers because of the configuration.

Keith Wandell, president of JCI’s Automotive Group, says FastForward is ready for integration in ’08 model vehicles, and that the technology will be competitive with the Stow ‘n Go flat-folding seating now available on the Chrysler Group long-wheelbase minivans. “This is the thinnest folding seat in the industry,” he says.

JCI’s competitor Magna International Inc.’s Intier Automotive is Chrysler’s seat supplier for Stow ‘n Go. FastForward seats fold flat, but not completely into storage bins in the floor, the way Stow ‘n Go seat do. The FastForward concept minivan has storage bins in the floor, but only for cargo.

Whether JCI can one-up Magna by delivering FastForward at a lower price point remains to be seen. “We’re working on that,” Ekern tells Ward’s.

Besides FastForward, JCI also displays its Genus concept seat – a prototype that offers a thin, lightweight structure, with a sleek appearance and cantilevered base.

JCI’s other concept at NAIAS is its CrafTec Multi-Color Injection manufacturing process, which yields a 2-color substrate for interior trim panels in one part, without the need for extra moldings or painting. JCI says the technique simplifies and accelerates the panel design process and enhances design opportunities.

tmurphy@primediabusiness.com