Why does Yanfeng favor small screens in different parts of the interior over having one big screen like Tesla?
If we do the cockpit for a large premium car and the customer wants a big screen, we can do that. We have a strategic partnership with Chinese display manufacturer BOE, which is world market leader. We are very close to their R&D. We are very close to their OLED (organic light emitting diodes) development for automotive, including large screens.
For the XiM21, however, we decided not to show off the high end of what is technically possible. We decided to create something that is a production reality for larger-volume segments. Why not beautifully integrate two smaller screens into a larger black panel? This creates the same effect for significantly less cost.
Besides cost, what drove your decision?
In the XiM21, we have five screens. We have two curved TFT (thin-film-transistor) screens in front of the driver. We have a flat TFT screen as a central information display between the driver and passenger. This is the screen that can move toward the passenger. The use cases for sharing a screen are very rewarding.
For example, the passenger can enter the navigation for the driver and then swipe the content to the driver’s screen. In addition, the passenger can read the newspaper or watch a movie. Then we have two curved OLED screens for the rear-seat passengers that are hidden in the seat backs.
How is the XiM21 an evolution of the XiM20?
For the XiM20 we did a large amount of research, some of it was proprietary research on quality of life, which is obviously essential if you are creating a small space.
When we started work on the XiM20 we engaged with more than 2,000 end consumers in North America, Germany and China to really understand how the perception of quality of life was evolving. We wanted to know how we could translate that back into the interior of a car.
We engaged with customers with our initial ideas for that vision and ultimately started to steer our innovation, investments and projects in that direction, resulting in what we call our “smart cabin.”
How do you tap into the different regions of Yanfeng’s reach, in Europe, China and North America?
We really build on the strength of each region. I see us leveraging this global reach every day. Our American colleagues are very creative. They have lots of great ideas. Our European teams, especially in Germany, are very robust in their execution, especially when it comes to engineering. And our China colleagues can go very, very fast.
What do you mean when you say the Chinese go fast?
We are not talking about 10 percent faster or even 30 percent faster. It’s even faster than that. I’ll give you an example.
Ten years ago when I was in China visiting our tech center, we had a design review of a seat for a Korean automaker. The head of the design for the automaker was in our tech center and we had the prototype on the table. He was looking at it and he said, “I find the look of the headrest somewhat heavy.” So we started drawing with a marker on the headrest. And then he asked, “When can I see the retrimmed seat [to] evaluate it?”
In my mind, coming from Europe, I was thinking: We need to create a project brief. We need to get some signatures. We need to get the budget approved. We need to plan the work in our prototype shop. I figured it would take three to four weeks.
To my surprise, our tech leader there said, “We can have the seat ready for you to take a look at by the end of the day. Let’s say five o’clock.” This is just one example.
And what happened?
At 1:30 p.m., I got a call that the review with this customer was scheduled at 2 p.m. because the seat was ready and this guy was available. I could join in the review if I had time.
It’s that type of paradigm shift. It is amazing if you can infect your teams around the world with that level of speed.