Francisco Maciel
CFO
Faurecia México
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View from the Top

Anticipating the Needs of Future Mobility

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 10:25

Q: What designs do you have in the pipeline and how are you collaborating with other parties on technology development?

A: Stanford University has collaborated with Faurecia, investigating the interior changes required for an autonomous car. This design process will be gradual because at first passengers will not trust a machine enough to truly relax. Cars will only be autonomous for certain roads so the driver will need adaptable seating to take control when necessary. With time we can develop a style that allows for a greater variety of uses.

On the manufacturing side, we are already producing parts made of natural fibers in our Puebla facilities. This technology was developed following the acquisition of a company that specializes in cultivating industrial hemp to reduce the weight of plastic parts by 30 percent. Our Active Wellness solution has seat sensors designed by NASA that measure the driver’s heart rate and breathing. If the seat detects the driver is falling asleep, it sends countermeasures to wake them up. Similarly, the seat can adjust ventilation or ambient factors to alert the driver. The technology could even allow a doctor to observe the driver’s long-term heart-rate patterns and for emergency services to know how many passengers were in a crash. While not yet integrated in vehicles, Faurecia is developing it to anticipate the market’s need.

Q: How do you contribute to protecting the environment through your operations?

A: The growing need for sustainable mobility in the automotive industry encourages us to be wary of weight and this applies across all operations. The goal of the majority of our innovations is to make lighter pieces and reduce fuel consumption. Faurecia technologies are designed to cut up to 100kg per unit, which means a 10g reduction in CO2 pollution per kilometer driven.

We are also working on technologies that increase efficiency. About 30 percent of the energy in fuel is lost as heat in the exhaust system. We have technology that recovers heat from exhausts in hybrid cars and recycles it. To improve vehicle efficiency, this energy can heat the vehicle’s cabin or recharge the engine’s battery.

Q: What role do you expect Mexico to play in Faurecia’s global operations?

A: Mexico is a strategic location for the automotive industry and Faurecia is preparing three new plants. Two in San Luis Potosi will manufacture seating frames and interiors while Puebla will be home to another plant targeting Audi’s operations. We are also expanding our plant in Queretaro to cater to our upcoming projects.

Many of Faurecia’s inventions have come to Mexico. Some of its developments include technology for seats and an award-winning adaptive valve for exhausts, which plays a critical role in weight reduction as it halves total muffler weight. This active contribution to vehicle weight savings helps make each vehicle more fuel efficient. While this was created in North America, all technological advances permeate other markets and increase our worldwide competitiveness. In Mexico, our projects vary depending on what local clients want us to create for them. For example, Volkswagen has offered us an opportunity to develop a platform using natural fibers. To create innovative and ergonomic products we have a team of more than 5,000 R&D engineers worldwide, although some R&D operations, such as our composites manufacturing or electronics research, are managed via alliances with companies and universities.

Q: Which areas do you hope Mexico will improve to preserve its growth rate?

A: The difficulties Mexico faces begin with an excessive demand for engineers. Those that are qualified for highly specialized manufacturing are already employed and those that are available tend to have little experience in product development. We expect this challenge will intensify in the Bajio region, especially with BMW’s arrival, Ford expansions, and Tier 1 and 2 companies arriving with them. To face this issue, Faurecia contracts engineers with potential to grow and offers them training here in Mexico and abroad when possible.