Issue: Jul 2011


Seat Comfort Has a First Name, It's O-S-C-A-R



by Lenny Case

The name "Oscar" may bring to mind a grouch, an award statuette, a former championship boxer or maybe even a hot dog. But for Chevrolet, Oscar plays a key role in the engineering and interior design of the all-new 2013 Malibu.

Oscar is GM's three-dimensional, mannequin-like simulation tool comfort engineers used early in the product development process of Malibu to determine the overall dimensional layout of the car's interior. Before the interior was designed and engineered, Oscar first provided the key measurements Engineering and Design needed to create optimal interior space and comfort.

Technically known as a "Comfort Dimensioning System," Oscar is assembled in 18 removable parts weighing up to 170 lbs., and is made of steel, plastic and aluminum.

In the mid-1940s, Northrop used a similar device named Oscar Eightball. The 185-lb. aviation dummy was used for ejection seat and other testing. GM patented a similar tool for optimal interior space and comfort testing. Later on, the name was shortened to Oscar to differentiate the automotive from the aviation anthropomorphic test dummy.

Oscar is mechanically hinged at the hip or "H" point, which simulates the actual pivot center of the human torso and thigh. Based on the "H Point," engineers and interior designers determine the necessary headroom and the optimal back angle that should be offered. All this data directly influences positioning of the steering wheel, the pedals, rearview mirrors, instrument panel and other driving controls to ensure that the Malibu provides maximum room and comfort for a broad spectrum of customers.

When it comes to leg length measurement, Oscar can be assembled to represent an average (172-pound) adult male (50th percentile), scaled up to a 95th percentile male (270 pounds), or reduced to a 5th percentile (108-pound) female. A 95th percentile adult, for example, is larger than 95 percent of the population, while a 5th percentile adult is smaller than 95 percent of the population.

"Oscar represents our consumers," said Malibu seat performance engineer Daniel Cohen. "We use Oscar much like a builder uses a level to make sure that the building foundation is even. Oscar gives us a solid baseline around which we design and build new vehicles, like the Malibu."

The increasing size of the U.S. population since 1962, coupled with the growth in height and weight of consumers, make Oscar a valuable tool. According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveyconducted in 2006, a 95th percentile adult male has grown from 6 feet 1 inch to 6 feet 2 inches since 1962 and from 217 to the current 270 pounds. A 95th percentile adult female has grown from 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 8 inches since 1962 and from 199 to 250 pounds.

GM engineers designed and patented Oscar in 1961. The seat comfort tool was developed to "aid the designer of the automobile passenger compartment," according to a white paper presented by former GM engineers Vincent Kaptur, Jr. and Michael Myal at the 1961 SAE International Congress in Detroit. Oscar was the key to a new dimensioning concept adopted for industry use by the Automobile Manufacturer's Association starting with 1963 models, and is now a required part of the design for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Human X-rays were used to help develop Oscar's shape and size.

About Malibu

The new Malibu will be sold in nearly 100 countries on six continents. It is available in LS, LT, ECO and LTZ models in North America. Malibu production in the United States is scheduled to begin in early 2012 with the ECO model. Malibu will be built in multiple locations around the globe, including the Fairfax, Kan. and Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plants in the United States. Pricing will be announced later this year.

About Chevrolet

Founded in Detroit in 1911, Chevrolet celebrates its centennial as a global automotive brand with annual sales of about 4.25 million vehicles in more than 120 countries. Chevrolet provides consumers with fuel-efficient, safe and reliable vehicles that deliver high quality, expressive design, spirited performance and value. The Chevrolet portfolio includes iconic performance cars such as Corvette and Camaro; dependable, long-lasting pickups and SUVs such as Silverado and Suburban; and award-winning passenger cars and crossovers such as Spark, Cruze, Malibu, Equinox and Traverse. Chevrolet also offers "gas-friendly to gas-free" solutions including Cruze Eco and Volt. Cruze Eco offers 42 mpg highway while Volt offers 35 miles of electric, gasoline-free driving and an additional 344 miles of extended range. Most new Chevrolet models offer OnStar safety, security and convenience technologies including OnStar Hands-Free Calling, Automatic Crash Response and Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. More information regarding Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com


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