Johnson Controls develops cockpit, instrument cluster, overhead system and pillar trim for the new Smart Forfour

The new Smart Forfour sets new standards for its vehicle class, for example by introducing the use of new materials in the cockpit and an innovative way of integrating the passenger airbag. The four-seater is the first car in the Lower Medium segment to feature a textile-covered instrument panel into which the laser seam for the airbag has been invisibly incorporated. This concept was realized by Johnson Controls, one of the world´s leading suppliers of automotive interior systems, interior electronics and batteries. In addition to developing and producing the cockpit module and instrument cluster, the company also supplies the overhead system, center console and pillar trim.

Five color schemes for more individuality

Furnishing the interior with textile surfaces gives the consumer a more choices of design options. Forfour drivers can choose between a total of five color schemes for the cockpit of their car. Taking into account the right-hand-drive version, that makes for 10,000 different cockpit variations. Each driver can put together a Forfour that perfectly suits his own tastes.

The amount of careful planning that went into the cockpit is revealed in the details: an optionally available zippered cockpit bag can be stowed directly above the normal glove compartment. When the driver leaves the car, he can simply take the bag with him. As an alternative, a convenient net is another option available for the storage compartment.

Even the overhead system offers the driver two options.

Johnson Controls produces both light and darker-colored variants. The overhead system is supplied complete with sun visors, grab handles, lights and wiring.

A unified look thanks to innovative polypropylene

A special new material called “soft silver polypropylene (PP)” was used to create the shimmering silver lower section of the Forfour cockpit. When used over large surfaces, PP is difficult to dye. Johnson Controls therefore worked together with a materials supplier to develop a new injection molding process expressly for this specific application. In order to achieve a uniform look throughout, the same material was used for all components. The parts of the center console developed by Johnson Controls are also made of the same soft silver polypropylene. All of the modules offer package trays and storage compartments that give the Smart Forfour driver plenty of room to safely stow all those small items and ends, while still keeping them close at hand.

Just-in-sequence delivery to the NedCar assembly line

Besides the invisibly integrated airbag, the cockpit module also encompasses cross beams, front wall, glove compartment box, HVAC system, wire harness, pedal system, steering column, brake servo unit and instrument cluster. The cockpit is assembled at NedCar in the Dutch town of Born. Johnson Controls employees manufacture the cockpit module on the assembly line just-in-sequence, meaning that the cockpit is finished at the exact same moment when the body of the car is ready to receive it. A robot takes the module from the Johnson Controls assembly line, pivots to face NedCar´s assembly line and swings the cockpit through the door opening into the body of the car.

A special concept is applied for the Smart that allows the differing tolerances of cockpit and body to be brought into precise alignment. The advantage here is a visual one: when the doors of the Forfour are closed, the door trim and cockpit match up seamlessly, with no visible gaps breaking up the smooth lines of the design.

Pearl chain for more exact planning and minimal stock on hand

Johnson Controls is not only responsible for the complete assembly of the cockpit module, but also for the logistical coordination of all sub-suppliers. All in all, the company is in charge of a total of some fifty suppliers. These are coordinated by means of the “pearl chain” process, which, by contrast with just-in-time production, already establishes the vehicle production sequence several days in advance. This means that auto maker and suppliers can plan more precisely and need to keep less stock on hand.

New production techniques and new materials thus both play a part in making the Smart Forfour one of today´s true trendsetters.

Further information is available from:

Johnson Controls GmbH
Automotive Group
Astrid Schafmeister
Industriestr. 20-30
51399 Burscheid, Germany
Tel.: +49 2174 65-3189
Fax: +49 2174 65-3219

Johnson Controls, Inc. is one of the world´s leading suppliers of automotive interior systems and interior electronics, as well as in the areas of facility management and control. In the automotive market, the company is a major supplier of vehicle seating and interior systems and batteries. For non-residential facilities, Johnson Controls is one of the leading providers of building control components and systems as well as energy management and facility management services.

Johnson Controls (New York Stock Exchange: JCI), founded in 1885, has its headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The European headquarters is in Burscheid, Germany. The company´s worldwide sales for 2003 totaled US$22.6 billion, the Automotive Group alone accounting for US$17 billion of this figure. In the current “Industry Week” business magazine rankings, Johnson Controls has been listed as one of the top 100 best-run companies in the world for the sixth time in succession.

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