DETROIT – Expect to see new applications of Stow ’n Go, the innovative fold-flat seating system that bowed onGroup’s ’05 minivans, says International Inc. President Mark Hogan.
’s Automotive subsidiary developed the system with , but Hogan reveals the supplier is quoting on similar technology for other auto makers.
“You won’t see it next year, but we’re quoting,” he says after delivering a keynote address at the Ward’s Auto Interiors Show here.
Who’s interested? Everybody, he says. “There’s Asian OEMs. There’s European OEMs. There’s North American OEMs. Most of these products are globally executed these days, anyway.”
The technology will surface in vehicles other than minivans.
“You’re going to see it in cross/utility vehicles and SUVs, as well,” Hogan says.
Chrysler featured a similar system in the Rampage, a pickup concept unveiled in February at the Chicago Auto Show.
“You’re going to see the functionality of those kinds of interiors start to appear more frequently in other makes,” Hogan adds, noting the Chevy HHR has fold-flat seats. “Those kinds of improvements, in terms of functionality, are going to continue to spread across the industry.”
Chrysler has limited exclusivity to the technology, which allows both the second and third rows of seats to fold into a well in the floor, based on its supply agreement with Magna.
“A lot depends on where the OEMs want to take their interior design package,” Hogan says. “The executions, by and large, are pretty different. But the functionality remains the same.”
Meanwhile, a Magna source confirms to Ward’s thatAG’s North America-only minivan – derived from Chrysler’s next-generation, or RT minivan platform – will not feature second-row seating that folds into the floor. This, even though it will be assembled at a Chrysler plant alongside the Pentastar brand’s minivans, which will retain the feature.
Production of the VW minivans is expected to begin in 2008.
Hogan refutes grassroots grumbling that Stow ’n Go originally was conceived by troubled supplier Collins & Aikman Corp.
“It was a collaboration between DaimlerChrysler (AG) and ourselves,” he says.
Hogan confirms Magna has been approached by auto makers to take control of Tier 1 plants affected by restructuring efforts at suppliers such asCorp. and Corp.
Despite Magna’s financial strength, Hogan reiterates the supplier is neither actively targeting acquisitions nor is it considering the purchase of plants in North America.
Acknowledging that some segments of the supply community are in turmoil, Hogan urges parts makers to look in the mirror.
“The level of costing capability at some of the Tier 1s has led to, what I consider to be, pricing that is not really justified,” he says.
“In other words, they didn’t really understand all their costs. In the old days, back in the ’60s and the ’70s, cost analysis was a very important part of vehicle program execution – for suppliers and OEMs. Some of that’s diminished,” Hogan says. “Not at every OEM and not at every Tier 1. But I think it’s an art that’s been lost.”
But he doesn’t let auto makers off the hook. Early collaboration with suppliers drives quality and innovation.
Ironically, Stow ’n Go – voted by journalists to be the 2006 show’s most innovative interior feature – took 14 months to introduce at Chrysler.