By on August 31, 2015

 

On Monday, Magna International completed its sale of its interior business to Grupo Antolin, a Spanish firm that’s relatively unknown outside of Spain.

That’s on top of Johnson Control International getting out of the interior business, along with other automakers and suppliers, as John McElroy pointed out in a well-written column for Autoblog.

Magna’s sale underscores the fact that the car-making business — and especially their interiors — isn’t exactly lucrative for most suppliers.

For what it’s worth, the sale helps reduce Magna’s exposure to a recently volatile Canadian currency, but long-term, Magna didn’t see margins improving on interiors and got out.

Instead, Magna’s looking at transmissions and other automotive parts — like other suppliers — as a better source of revenue and margins for a healthier bottom line.

(His concern is shared by Sergio Marchionne, who has a few ideas about consolidation.)

Like McElroy points out, the large players in the interior business, now Grupo Antolin and Yanfeng, are relative unknowns in a business where sales are brisk and cheaper is always better.

In short, hold on to your door handles.

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36 Comments on “The Biggest Car Interior Makers Are Now Companies We’ve Never Heard Of...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’d be interested in seeing a chart of which car makers use which interiors between 1995 and now. Then we could come up with some interior longevity theories based upon suppliers.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Given how identical interiors have become over the past 10 years, I think they all gravitated to the same supplier.

      Might be why almost every car has the same steering wheel now

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I wish we could go back to interiors of yore, simple, functional, and elegant in their own right. For doors, Base models just get a steel panel covering the guts with a nice padded arm rest/door pull, and controls mounted on or separately of them. Move up in trim and have the panels upholstered in Vinyl/cloth/leather. In 20 years when it looks like crap, have it reupholstered, the doors painted, and maybe some dents pulled and it looks good as new.

    A nice padded dash that splits to release an airbag, double din in the dash. Instead we get plastic covering very roughly finished steel, steel thats thin enough to flex with light pressure. Sound deadening and a clean finish do not have to be mutually exclusive.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGreenMan

      What are the idiot auto reviewers who appear to never really drive cars going to talk about if you go back to functional?

      I think I probably stopped reading reviews by anybody I didn’t recognize, because I stopped caring about whether the plastics were soft-touch enough, or if they simulated a textured surface correctly, or if the leather made from dried sensitive parts of whales felt sufficiently smooth when sashaying across a seat surface on a trip to Greenwich village in hot pants.

      I think it was some site that had crowd-sourced its NAIAS coverage, and there were all these tweens writing about sitting in the vehicle and feeling the weight and girth of the controls, and I realized – hey, isn’t this what I read on Jalopnik, where some moron was talking about how he wasn’t engaged by the cabin? And didn’t BMW used to be known for Teutonic austerity in a single-minded focus on driving perfection when they were good? That’s when I stopped reading most reviews, but, unfortunately, too many people still read them.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Whenever I read about “soft touch plastics”, I read “we couldn’t come up with anything else to complain about”.

        I’m much more interested in hearing about how the positioning of the controls and spaces will work in daily life. But that’s a personal thing, and hard to write about.

        But, I’ll give you a for instance anyway. When I first sat in a Tesla Model S, I was traveling and had my laptop bag with me. I sat down and sort of automatically put my laptop in the area between the seats (just aft of the giant display). The area was *exactly* the right size and shape for a laptop bag with a 15″ Macbook Pro. Normally, those areas are sized for a woman’s purse, not for tho bag I carry – so it felt brilliant. Yeah, yeah, Palo Alto problems – but that’s actually something tho matters.

        I also sat in a 2015 Chevy Colorado recently. The interior was generic-rental-car-black, but it was really well thought out (except for figuring out where to put my laptop bag). Everything was in its place, and right-sized – from the windows to the seats to the charging ports. It looked like I could get kids in the mack neat, and I could charge my phone in the front seat. I had low expectations, but the Design greatly exceeded my expectations, even if the materials and appearance were generic at best.

        I could easily see how you could be comfortable using this every day. I don’t really care about soft touch plastics, or a unique appearance. I care about what it’s going to be like to use the tool every day for the next decade. And both the Tesla and the Colorado scored well in this respect.

        But it ismtard to write about daily routines and the flow of the interior in a sentence or two. So, griping about the hard plastics (which are quite durable in my experience) is much easier, even if it’s less relevant.

        P.S. The Colorado really is a right-sized truck and, with the diesel, it really is the truck I wanted in 2006 and 2011. If only I actually needed a truck… :-)

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    So it sounds like we have the prospect of chintzy interiors that look good for a few years then fall apart, to look forward to? Our ’07 Infiniti FX35 has a bubbling delaminating dash cover, seat material that is flaking off and cheap switchgear that fries every few years. Sounds like this may be the new norm….yay!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    In theory, these components and subassemblies are built to a specification, and should be identical to those built by previous suppliers.

    In practice, subtle mfg and labor differences can reduce (or improve) quality. Sometimes you can get both lower price and better quality together.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I was surprised to learn that suppliers charge about $75 for the leather in an interior – no wonder magna wants no part of it.

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      that’s what i don’t get….if a car manufacturer is going to throw an extra $100 into a car (or conversely not decontent the marginal $100), that money should go into interior quality with perhaps paint or ride quality a close second.

      as ordinary buyers are more likely to rave/curse interiors that at-the-limit performance.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    And even the companies we have heard of (Recaro) are making crap not worth sitting on.
    Why is there essentially no aftermarket for decent seats? Cost?

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    The vulnerability in these purchases are in Design, Purchasing and Program Management.

    The designers were pawned off with the acquisition (as they normally do). Sometimes you will see a group go to a competitor which leaves the OEM relying on their subject matter experts.

    Where the risk is the capital. If you change vendors, change your procurement strategy and do not interface with the OEM engineering and program management, you end up with a disruption. Standard QOS’ usually cover this.

    What OEM’s have done poorly in the past is let their purchasing departments run wild with new supplier ownership. I have been witness to two very healthy suppliers go into liquidation due to piece cost. The supply base is so cut throat. What usually gets an OEM through these dire situations isn’t their ‘top tier’ management they send to rescue suppliers, it’s the old industry experts embedded in the supply base. The way it goes is usually a supplier plant manager realized they are ****ed and they fly in some guy from his retirement home and then they line said expert’s pockets with cash to burn in their boat. OEM rescue team gets the credit and the OEM repeats the mistake 5 years later.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      “OEM rescue team gets the credit and the OEM repeats the mistake 5 years later”

      Like [email protected] clockwork

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        Having been on both sides of the situation, witnessing this is beyond aggravating.

        Usually the supplier is almost scared of admitting they’re in over their heads. By the time you realize what you procured isn’t going to work out, it’s too late. The time between when you get your money cleared by the OEM, you literally have days between the delivery date of the capital supplier and the delivery of the first production trials to the OEM.

        My plant manager hated how I talked to the OEM customer, but when I was driving a PPAP, I had the purchasing manager’s ear. If a PO didn’t clear in time, I would put a program hold on my part numbers and would have the OEM treat me how I paid fannie mae with my student loans. There were no secrets and all my coworkers prayed for my soul each sunday because of the vocabulary of my ‘intelligent discourse’ with the customer.

        You have to know where your power lies. When a launch team all of a sudden sees that a procurement issue is holding up an entire program, money is exchanged. that’s a small piece of the big puzzle. That’s capital. Piece cost can be grossly missed by a company not familiar with the industry. God help these new fools as they get baptized in this world of sh1t.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          They are going to have to heavily rely on the talent from the business units they purchased. That may not even be enough. It’s not like JCI is going to let it’s best people go to Yanfeng. I have a feeling that Lear is going to be busy.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          Ahh piece cost…..something I just went through with FoMoCo…..wanting a “reduction” in cost but the part failed NVH.

          Also enjoy during the launch guys writing CR’s with “Zero Cost” in there….who the F do you think is gonna pay for those tool changes, prayers?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            “who the F do you think is gonna pay for those tool changes, prayers?”

            Hahahaha. They’re hoping.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            You know how you get past that SC5d00r?

            Don’t PPAP the new part number. No money, no part number change. But I’m guessing your program manager is a giant pushover…

            Everytime the part bumps, it’s a new PPAP agreement which requires a new capital backbone. Get your STA to start doing his god damned job.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        I know OEM’s like lessons learned. They should have one lesson learned from each of these many mistakes:
        “Have Purchasing department stop being a d1ck.”

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I know a couple guys that do that. One at GM and one at Ford. One of them is such an a$$hole that I don’t even know how he still has a job. I don’t even like dealing with him in social functions. I can’t imagine working with him…

        • 0 avatar
          anomaly149

          An addendum to this is sending a nice note to shareholders stating “not every division will have >10% margin, especially when supplying one of the most cutthroat industries in the world.”

          JCI jumped because seating’s % margins were nothing compared to battery’s % margins, even though it was huge revenue.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    So Coleman isn’t making interior bits anymore for vehicles like the Camaro, Spark, FR-S, and Frontier?

    ;-)

  • avatar
    Manic

    Good points form Tresmonos and from ball40dtw.
    Still, John McElroy seems to automatically think that Grupo Antolin and Yangfeng are a bunch of morons, same time telling us that he even doesn’t know the companies as they have been more active in Europe and in China respectively.
    Anyone he’s not familiar with? Idiots!
    Nice way to show ignorance….

    Both these co.’s have been in this biz years now and know what they’re doing.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I don’t think they’re idiots. Yanfeng is owned by SAIC, so they should know what they are doing. Grupo Antolin can’t be any worse than Magna. I always hated doing work at their factories. They were intentionally ambiguous on specifications for contractors. They can shove my concrete core sample straight up their….

      • 0 avatar
        anomaly149

        Magna must have serious dirt on someone in Ford management. Good lord are they tough to deal with sometimes.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          At one plant, they cracked their concrete floors by putting way too much weight on them (giant hilos with too large of loads). They were going to sue us until they took core samples and we had poured at least 4″ of concrete more than spec’d out. Then they paid us to fix it and I made sure they paid a lot of overtime for my crew.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    sounds like manufacturers are speccing more soft-touch stuff, but dont want to pay more.

    doesnt lear still do seats/interiors?

  • avatar
    pdl2dmtl

    Interesting to see that Frank Stronach still makes cameo appearances although he cashed out of Magna a couple of years back.

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