Dysfunctional dashboards: Auto suppliers competing to wash up the cockpit


SAN FRANCISCO – Peer on the instrument panel in your new automobile and also you see smooth digital gauges and multicolored screens. However behind the dashboard, here is what US auto provider Visteon Corp discovered: a large number.

As automotive cockpits develop into filled with ever extra digital options comparable to navigation and leisure programs, the electronics holding all of it collectively have develop into a rat’s nest of parts made by completely different components makers.

Now the race is on to wash up the litter.

Visteon is amongst a slew of suppliers aiming to make dashboard innards easier, cheaper and lighter because the business accelerates towards a so-called digital cockpit – an all-digital dashboard that can assist usher within the period of self-driving vehicles.

What’s at stake is a chunk of the $37 billion cockpit electronics market, estimated by analysis agency IHS Market to just about double to $62 billion by 2022. Accounting agency PwC estimates that electronics may account for as much as 20 % of a automobile’s worth within the subsequent two years, up from 13 % in 2015.

In the meantime, the variety of suppliers for these parts is prone to dwindle as automakers look to work with fewer corporations able to doing extra, in accordance with Mark Boyadjis, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit.

“The complexity of engineering 10 completely different programs from 10 completely different suppliers is now not one thing an automaker desires to do,” Boyadjis mentioned.

He estimates producers ultimately will work with two to 3 cockpit suppliers for every mannequin, down from six to 10 right now.


One among Visteon’s options is a pc module dubbed “SmartCore.” This cockpit area controller operates a automobile’s instrument cluster, infotainment system and different options, all on the identical tiny piece of silicon.

To this point this 12 months, the Detroit-based firm has landed two massive contracts for undisclosed sums. One, introduced in April, is with China’s second-largest automaker, Dongfeng Motor Corp. The opposite is with Mercedes-Benz, Reuters has discovered. Mercedes didn’t reply to requests for remark. One other unnamed European automaker plans to make use of the system in 2018, in accordance with Visteon.

Visteon goes all-in on cockpit electronics, having shed its remaining automotive local weather and interiors companies in 2016. The wager thus far is paying off. The corporate secured $1.5 billion in new enterprise within the first quarter, helped by progress in China. Visteon’s inventory worth is up greater than 50 % over the previous 12 months.

It is a main turnaround since Visteon was spun off from Ford a decade in the past. Visteon filed for chapter safety in 2009 earlier than rising a 12 months later.

“It’s important to be altering and adapting quick. If not, you are not going to maintain up on this market,” mentioned Tim Yerdon, Visteon’s head of worldwide advertising. “It is about reinventing your self to remain forward.”

Alexandra Schaefer, head of the SmartCore-Center of Competence and her colleague Hector Zarate of U.S. automotive supplier Visteon work on a set-up to demonstrate their new 'SmartCore' dashboard at the companies technical center in Karlsruhe, Germany June 23, 2017. Picture taken June 23, 2017.  REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski


Visteon’s makeover hints on the coming battle between suppliers preventing for actual property within the digital cockpit. The development is already triggering acquisitions, as corporations look to spice up their choices to automakers.

Visteon in 2014 purchased Johnson Controls’ electronics enterprise, which was additionally growing a site controller. In March, Samsung accomplished its $eight billion buy of infotainment firm Harman. France’s Faurecia, a prime seating and interiors provider, final 12 months bought a 20 % stake in Paris-based infotainment agency Parrot Automotive SAS in a deal that would make Faurecia the largest shareholder by 2019.

Deal-making within the wider automotive sector has been at a fever pitch over the previous two years fueled by the race to develop autonomous automobile know-how. Exercise within the sector was price $41 billion in 2016, in accordance with PwC.

Analysts say German automakers are taking the lead in consolidating features inside the dashboard. Audi was the primary to debut a digital cockpit final 12 months that mixed its instrument cluster and infotainment system.

A 'SmartCore' dashboard is seen at the technical center of U.S. automotive supplier Visteon in Karlsruhe, Germany June 23, 2017. Picture taken June 23, 2017.  REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski


Streamlined dashboards can result in value reductions for producers, who can save as a lot as $175 per automobile with an built-in cockpit, in accordance with Munich-based administration consulting agency Roland Berger.

They will additionally assist with gasoline effectivity. That is as a result of automobiles are lighter when there are fewer behind-the-scenes computer systems, often called digital management models (ECUs). Automobiles right now comprise 80 to 120 ECUs, numbers anticipated to fall sharply in coming years.

However maybe the largest motivation for fancy cockpits is gross sales. Drivers accustomed to the seamless know-how of their smartphones are discovering right now’s dashboard choices clunky and non-intuitive. A J.D. Energy examine launched this month discovered probably the most complaints from new automobile house owners stemmed from audio, communications, leisure and maps programs.

Higher cockpits may show essential to attracting youthful customers, who should not exhibiting the identical enthusiasm for vehicles, and even driving, that their mother and father did. Analysis firm Mintel discovered that 41 % of millennial automobile patrons are thinking about having the most recent know-how of their automobiles.

Disjointed dashboards “are probably the most noticeable gaps in person expertise – what you see proper in entrance of you,” mentioned Andrew Hart of UK-based consultancy SBD Automotive.

On many automobile fashions, he mentioned, audible warning programs to alert the motive force to a possible collision should not in sync with the radio, which means your favourite track may drown out the warning beep.

“That is a loopy instance of one thing when you do not consolidate ECUs,” Hart mentioned.

Business watchers say this and different safe-driving options are among the many programs ripe for integration. Extra targets embody rear-seat leisure programs and so-called heads-up shows that challenge information such because the automobile’s velocity onto the windshield for straightforward viewing.

Again in Detroit, Visteon says it’s in talks with carmakers in China and Europe for its area controller, a know-how it hopes can provide it an edge over rivals comparable to Delphi, Robert Bosch, Continental, and Denso.

Whereas it is not clear who will prevail, electronics suppliers are seeing their merchandise tackle new significance as automobiles develop into extra related.

5 years in the past, the dashboard was “a plastic molded cockpit that we stuffed electronics into,” mentioned Yerdon, Visteon’s advertising chief. “Now it is extra about an digital structure that is experience-driven, and we mould plastic round it.”

Reporting by Alexandria Sage

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