Johnson Controls automotive seating study finds comfort and number of seats most important to drivers and passengers

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Results of seat supplier’s research guide automotive interior development

PLYMOUTH, MICH. (June 27, 2013) – Consumers are more interested in the number of seats in their vehicle and how comfortable those seats are rather than how they are configured. That’s one of the findings from the recently completed research study from Johnson Controls, a global leader in automotive seating.

Johnson Controls conducted the consumer study to gain a better understanding of current and evolving automotive seating trends, occupant demographics and the frequency and purpose of selecting seat positions by vehicle segment.

To gather this information, Johnson Controls conducted surveys of more than 1,100 U.S. consumers who are vehicle purchase decisionmakers driving 2010-2013 model-year vehicles. The study was conducted previously in 2001 and 2007 and together with the latest results, the findings represent the opinions of nearly 4,000 drivers.

Among the findings:

  • Comfort remains an important interior factor. A majority of consumers choosing from a list of vehicle interior attributes said comfort of the driver had the most impact on the purchase of their most recent vehicle.
  • Seating positions used infrequently are still required. Consumers may use a second or third row’s seats in a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) infrequently but it is important they are there when they need them. “One of the major findings we’ve determined about frequency of use from this study, as well as our other research, is that situation trumps frequency,” said Dawn MacLeod, consumer research manager for Johnson Controls Automotive Seating. “Activities involving children highlight that seats with low use are required for extra passengers in certain situations and they are very important to consumers at these times.”
  • Flexibility. The study found that minivan, sport utility vehicles (SUV), CUV and pickup owners reconfigured the seats in their vehicles more often than owners of other vehicles, at least once per month. The primary reason for reconfiguring seats was to haul cargo. The ability to reconfigure a vehicle’s seats to address this need influenced the segment of vehicle purchased.
  • Child seat placement. Owners of minivans and three-row SUVs and CUVs are most likely to have a child seat in their vehicle. Vehicle owners appeared somewhat more likely to cite ease of getting the child in and out of the vehicle or the ability to see and reach the child as the basis for their child seat placement. Luxury car and SUV two-row owners cited safest location as the basis for their placement.

This proprietary seating study is just one of many conducted by Johnson Controls’ Consumer Research Group. This team focuses on consumer behavior, motivations and vehicle use and evaluates current consumers as well as future target groups. In collaboration with teams of designers and engineers, Johnson Controls translates its market and consumer intelligence into innovative automotive products.

“Comparative studies allow us to better support automakers in the seat design and development process,” said Tom Gould, director of industrial design for Johnson Controls Automotive Seating. “Insights from consumer research drive innovative and competitive products that help us meet consumer needs.”

For example, the development of Johnson Controls’ new ComfortThin seat was driven by such insights. Addressing the fact that comfort is so important to vehicle buyers, the seat employs unique seating technology that balances the need for maximizing interior space and reducing weight without sacrificing comfort.

Johnson Controls also developed second-row lounge seating that transforms three individual seats into two luxury seats with an armrest. The seat, now being used in the Opel Zafira, can fold flat for maximum cargo space and flexibility.

Another second-row seat influenced by the company’s research features an industry-first fold-away center seat that enables easy access to the third row. This seat is available in the Ford C-MAX.

About Johnson Controls:
Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and industrial leader serving customers in more than 150 countries. Our 168,000 employees create quality products, services and solutions to optimize energy and operational efficiencies of buildings; lead-acid automotive batteries and advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles; and interior systems for automobiles. Our commitment to sustainability dates back to our roots in 1885, with the invention of the first electric room thermostat. Through our growth strategies and by increasing market share we are committed to delivering value to shareholders and making our customers successful.  In 2013, Corporate Responsibility Magazine recognized Johnson Controls as the #14 company in its annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list. For additional information, please visit

About Johnson Controls Automotive Experience:
Johnson Controls is a global leader in automotive seating, overhead systems, door and instrument panels, and interior electronics. We support all major automakers in the differentiation of their vehicles through our products, technologies and advanced manufacturing capabilities. With 240 locations worldwide, we are where our customers need us to be. Consumers have enjoyed the comfort and style of our products, from single components to complete interiors. With our global capability, we supply approximately 50 million cars per year.

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