The Dräxlmaier Group, located in Germany/Bavaria, has partnered with BMW in the development of interior and electrical systems for the new BMW 1 Series. Maximilian Kiermeier, Manager, Business Unit DAT/Dräxlmaier Automotivtechnik, discusses the project and the contributions the company is making to the automotive industry.
Automotive Purchasing News (APN): In today’s highly competitive automotive industry, what expectations does the consumer have?
Kiermeier: Today’s driver places increased demands on the automobile, and therefore on the automobile makers and, subconsciously, on their suppliers. The desire is not only for improved speed and safety but also on greater comfort and an interior that is equipped to suit the driver’s individual needs. Besides the functionality of interior equipment, the variety and combination of unique decor surfaces are growing in importance as both automakers and drivers seek to differentiate their vehicles.
APN: What differentiates the BMW 1 Series from other luxury compacts?
Kiermeier: The BMW 1 Series is a breath of fresh air among compact cars. Just one look at the BMW 1 Series and you know it’s fun to drive. The new model has brought BMW’s handling and premium quality to this market segment. In fact, what sets the 1 Series apart from other compacts is its handling. In addition, the design of the new 1 Series – inside and out – conveys sporty elegance, power and flair. Along with the exterior, its elegant style and the optimum ergonomics of its interior make it unmistakeably a BMW.
APN: What contributions has Dräxlmaier made to this new car?
Kiermeier: The DRX Group’s extensive contributions to the new BMW 1 Series range from design, development and testing to sophisticated logistics. Working closely with BMW engineers in Munich, resident engineers from Dräxlmaier conceived a new electrical system that could be used not just in this car, but also in other models. Besides designing the innovative lead sets for body and engine and the E-box, Dräxlmaier is also responsible for the controls on the centre console. The company even handles logistical tasks, delivering the whole package in lot size 1, just in time and/or just in sequence, to the assembly line at the new BMW plant in Leipzig.
APN: Were there any particular challenges that Dräxlmaier faced in the BMW 1 Series development process?
Kiermeier: The challenge of the new BMW 1 Series was to come up with different decorative elements for the centre console that satisfied stringent aesthetic demands while fulfilling the need for comfort and passive safety.
Throughout the entire project, BMW set exacting standards for the main controls on the centre console. Bright metal and metallic surfaces underscore the car’s young and sporty character. DRX implements all of these things in the new, user-friendly components. Prominent here are iDrive and the gearshift knob. The centre console consists of individual components. Metal or metallic surfaces lend a sporty note to the controls. At the core of the centre console is the iDrive controller, BMW’s integrated control for the comfort, communication and driving-assistance functions.
APN: Will you elaborate on your comments about the importance of automotive aesthetics?
Kiermeier: Innovative design and modern materials or material combinations provide cars with the individuality that both automakers and owners of top-of-the line vehicles not only want, but expect. For some time now, fine classical surfaces like leather and wood have been increasingly combined with modern trim materials made of aluminium, granite or carbon. Materials such as plastics, leather, Alcantara and wood, which formerly represented the limits in the sphere of exclusive materials for surfaces, have now been complemented by materials like natural stone, chrome and aluminium. Be it pure luxury or a more sporty feeling, it is the interior with its materials and trim that gives a car the special touch that appeals to a particular type of driver.
APN: Stretching these limits to include such interior materials as stone must also stretch your engineering skills!
Mr. Kiermeier: There are challenges, but Dräxlmaier is up to them. For example, the fine, lightweight structure of veneered stone has to stand up to both extreme physical influences, such as thermal fluctuation and resistance to the effects of vibration, as well as to standard safety precautions. Specialists working in the laboratories of the Dräxlmaier Group see to it that these requirements are fulfilled. In-house static load tests and climatic tests, as well as an airbag discharge unit ensure that the products are delivered “approved by Dräxlmaier” and make any counter-checks by the customer superfluous.
APN: How does Dräxlmaier work with the automakers to achieve the functionality and aesthetics that they desire?
Kiermeier: Nowadays, when it comes to selecting the materials, the OEMs include their suppliers in the development process at an early stage in order to profit from their know-how. The Dräxlmaier Group of Vilsbiburg was closely involved in the BMW 1 Series project from the early development stage right up until the SOP.
The designers at Dräxlmaier not only make use of proven materials and surfaces; they are continually on the lookout for exciting new ideas for modern interior vehicle equipment and applications that they can recommend and ultimately incorporate. Or to express it in another way, in order to maintain a pole position in the future, suppliers have to be able to offer manufacturers individual suggestions and solutions for development, production and delivery. For example, the innovative Functionally Integrated Systems FIS, was invented for the current BMW 7-series. At the core of this system lies the complex integration of electrical and electronic functions into an exclusive car interior. With this, luxurious leather, metal or precious wood surfaces are expertly combined to form a high-tech overall module in car interiors.
APN: It sounds like a complex process.
Kiermeier: It is, because high-tech does not mean merely meeting the customer’s demands and guaranteeing reliability. It means performing a balancing act between beauty, comfort and the latest engineering requirements and safety criteria. The development and application of these modular systems paves the way for the future of the automobile industry. Our ability to develop such systems and our approach to doing so is what sets Dräxlmaier apart from many OEM suppliers.
APN: How so?
Kiermeier: As an innovative, globally active partner in design and technology, Dräxlmaier plays a leading role in the automotive industry, while maintaining the good old way of working side by side with its clients. Each day, our more than 25,000 company employees worldwide create new interior, electric and electronic systems. The resources required, such as design, rapid tooling, rapid prototyping and the flawless supply chain, are developed at the company itself. Our expertise regarding the BMW Group is reflected from the Mini and 1-, 3-, 5- and 6-series up to the 7-series, the Z4, X3 and X5 and the Rolls-Royce Phantom. We take pride in knowing that BMW appreciates the importance of finding an expert partner like the Dräxlmaier Group.