Little and large: The right seat for everyone
Stefan Koob heads the Center of Competence Seat Development at Groupe PSA in Rüsselsheim. The engineer explains how his team manages to meet the most diverse needs.
As a Center of Competence, we are responsible for seat development for the entire Groupe PSA. That's why it's incredibly interesting for me at the moment to learn what Peugeot customers particularly value in contrast to an Opel or a Citroën driver. For me, it's not about turning the PSA seats almost inside out. The decisive question is, how do we design a seat so that a new car buyer of a certain brand immediately notices "this is my seat".
A sportier tuning is characteristic of Opel - customers know that and expect that from us. And of course, that also applies to the seat. For all its sportiness, however, the seat should still be comfortable and convey a feeling of security. That is why lateral support plays a major role here. A Citroën customer, on the other hand, prefers something completely different: the majority of these customers want a soft seat that can settle into, like on a sofa.
How do we reconcile all this in seat development? In order to create a typical Opel seat, we rely on our tried and tested seat structure, i.e. the frame that forms the seat. With the components that we fit to the structure - such as foams and seat covers- we shape the seat so that it feels right for an Opel. That may sound strange, but the "seat of the pants" feeling is not only crucial for the feedback from racing drivers.
To the seat structure we add PUR foams (polyurethane). We can use it to shape the seat as individually as we like - whether for armchair lovers or for those who like it a little snugger. For the sports seats in the new Corsa, for example, we used a relatively hard seat foam that gives you the feeling that you are really being “held” in the seat.
No development progress without us
Seat development like this takes around three years. The seat is one of the most expensive components in a car. Efficiency is therefore the key. In simple terms, this means:
- Developing a new seat structure for every model makes no sense - far too expensive.
- Our solution: modules. We can use these across multiple models or even brands. It pays off and we always have top quality.
But how exactly does seat development work? We are, of course, there right from the start - as are the designers and marketing experts. Design provides the visual line, Marketing shows the sales strategy and we as seat developers check the technical parameters as well as the legal requirements. Of course, we always keep an eye on costs too. So many aspects to consider, not just “bums on seats.”
“We let our comfort specialists – men and women with expert sensitivity – test our seats as soon as possible.”
Tested…. and approved
Once we have made the first designs, the test phase begins. We let our comfort specialists test our seats as early as possible. These are men and women, real seating experts who accompany the entire development process. They only care about comfort. After all, both large and small must have enough space in our vehicles later on. Thanks to their special talent and experience, our experts feel very precisely when something is wrong and we get a wide range of feedback. Then we know if and where the seat is uncomfortable. Then it is up to us to evaluate everything and eliminate the critical points. Speaking of critical points: when we design a new seat, customer feedback from previous generations or other vehicle projects also flows into our work.
Many lists and tables later, the familiar, typical Opel seating feeling alone is still not enough. After all, the seat must meet the legal safety requirements. If, for example, the side airbags deploy, the fabric or cover has to open accordingly. There are also the Euro NCAP tests, which go beyond the legal requirements. Because other systems such as belt tensioner can only provide protection if the passenger is held well and in the right position in the seat. Of course, the seat must not deform in the event of an accident, either.
A tough job and a great challenge, because in the future there will certainly be even more ways to adjust our seats than there are today. After all, and rightly so, customer demands continue to rise. We are also expanding worldwide. It will be important to meet the requirements for a seat for both Asian and American customers. As you can see, seat development is more exciting than ever.