Lear Corporation

Lear Corporation: Technology, Innovations Demonstrate Industry Leadership

    Yokohama, Japan (ots-PRNewswire) - Lear Corporation (NYSE: LEA) is the creative force behind thousands of automotive innovations that have earned the company numerous awards and expanded Lear's backlog of new business to more than $3 billion. By designing from the inside out, Lear can ensure that all components -- from overhead storage systems to self-aligning seat head restraints and sophisticated cabin communication systems -- work together. The resulting harmonious design is a hallmark of Lear innovation and technology.

    Lear is showcasing some of its latest technology innovations at the company's exhibit at the 2000 Automotive Engineering Exhibition, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan. These innovations include both products and processes, tapping the creative talents of Lear's worldwide employees and the tools that help bring those creations to fruition.

    The focus of the Lear exhibit is modularity and the benefits that modules offer to automakers and consumers. Lear also is unveiling an impressive range of its new Intertronics(TM) products, Lear's products and technologies for the global automotive market such as smart junction boxes, advanced electronic products and mechatronic switches, as well as remote keyless entry systems and full electronic and electrical distribution systems.

    OASys(TM) Overhead Audio System -- Lear's OASys overhead audio system is revolutionizing automotive audio. OASys uses a network of sound zones in place of large, heavy traditional cone and coil speakers currently positioned in door and instrument panels. This technology transforms the entire headliner into a speaker with excellent ambiance and enveloping sound qualities, logically focusing the sound at occupants' ears rather than their knees. OASys has multi-channel capability and adaptability, and uses typical audio signal processing. Ducts for heating, air conditioning and ventilation also can be incorporated. OASys provides automotive manufacturers an opportunity to reclaim valuable packaging space in the door and instrument panels, eliminate the noise paths into the vehicle interior and achieve total vehicle weight savings. Lear can deliver OASys fully assembled and pretested, resulting in a reduction in vehicle complexity as well as warranty issues.

    Integrated Seat Adjuster Module (ISAM) -- This mechatronic product combines the consumer interface control and the multiplexed electronic control for seat adjustment, power lumbar support, memory function and heated seat into one package. ISAM combines several functions into one product to save space and cost, has the design flexibility to include additional features and styles, and reduces time and complexity of assembly into the seat.

    Two-Tone, Single-Step Injection Molding -- This low-pressure Lear process innovation has the capability to produce a two-tone door in a single step. It provides excellent interfacial bonding without the use of adhesive and can accommodate post-formable flanges and trim edges. The process has the flexibility to produce a door trim panel with a single cover, a split cover combining a soft upper cover with hard lower trim or no covering material at all. Integral molded core features include cages, locators and retainers.

    FabricFoam(TM) Seat Trim -- Lear is continually exploring materials innovations in seating systems. Seating is the third largest cost in the production of a vehicle and the largest portion of the seat cost is the seating materials. Lear's proprietary FabricFoam seat trim eliminates the need for seat covers, which reduces materials, labor and lamination cost. The one-step, low-cost manufacturing process for FabricFoam uses polyurethane foam and durable polyurethane skin to produce a flexible surface finish with dynamic colors, texture and gloss that also meets automakers' materials specifications and comfort requirements. It can be easily recycled and is both water resistant and washable.

    Dual Voltage Smart Power Junction Box -- Lear's Dual Voltage Smart Junction Box is a multifunctional and centralized unit that combines the signal and power for the upcoming dual voltage architecture. The increasing consumer demand for new power functions is driving the need for efficient, high voltage distribution systems in vehicles. The dual voltage architecture maintains the current 12-volt power needed for loads such as the vehicle's incandescent lamps and small power motors and actuators, while deploying the 42-volt power bus for the new, high power demanding loads such as electro-magnetic valves and electrically heated catalytic converters. The introduction of the two voltage systems increases the efficiency of the whole electronic and electronic distribution system, and optimizes size, weight and cost. The Dual Voltage Smart Junction Box also provides new technical solutions using higher voltages, such as the use of semiconductors optimized for 42 volts that replace conventional electromechanical relays and the integration of the DC/DC converted into the Smart Junction Box.

    Integrated Airbag Canister -- This Lear innovation integrates the airbag canister with the instrument panel retainer, providing improved fit and finish of the canister and airbag to the instrument panel. The design eliminates the canister end caps, contributing to the reduction in parts, cost and weight. The integrated canister also provides enhanced structural support to the instrument panel.

    Integrated Head Impact Countermeasures -- Lear's Pro-tec(TM) Advanced Restraints line of safety products include materials innovations in head impact countermeasures that provide enhanced safety to vehicle occupants. Among the materials on display is an egg-crate-like plastic that provides improved energy absorption.

    Sono-tec(TM) AT Dash Insulator and Floor Underpad -- Sono-tec AT Dash Insulator and Floor Underpad is part of Lear's Sono-tec Acoustic Absorbers, Lear's line of acoustic products. This very lightweight, multi-layer dash insulator and floor underpad was developed and optimized through Lear's proprietary acoustic modeling capabilities. It provides optimum sound abatement performance by using both absorptive and barrier technology. In addition to being manufactured from recyclable materials, it offers a weight savings of up to 60 percent compared to traditional designs.

    Integrated Door Controls -- This family of mechatronic products consolidates the controls for window lift, door lock, power mirror, heated seat and electronic control modules into a single, integrated package that operates either direct or via multiplexing to interface with vehicle systems outside the doors. Lear's integrated door controls lower system cost by reducing wires and assembly of different controls and the modular design allows adaptability to vehicle requirements with minimal changes.

    Pro-tec(TM) Self-Aligning Head Restraint System -- Lear's exclusive Pro-tec Self-Aligning Head Restraint System (SAHR) significantly reduces the occupant's risk of neck injury during a low-speed rear impact. SAHR is part of Pro-tec Occupant Protection Systems, Lear's line of innovated safety products. It uses a balancing system that allows the acceleration and velocity between the head and the upper torso to be as low as possible. During the early stage of the rear impact, the force of the impact presses the occupant against the seat back, then the head restraint moves up and forward to support the head and minimize the potential for whiplash. SAHR reduces the risk of injury by 80 percent compared to standard seat frames.

    Custom Key Fobs -- This new generation of remote keyless entry key fob designs uses decorative molding technology to offer a wide variety of options in fob design patterns or colors including textures, logos, text, and translucent and glow-in-the-dark colors. The custom key fobs provide unique styling without changing mold or injection material, offer the proven styling success found in cell phones and pagers to key fobs, and use technology that is adaptable to existing molds with only minimal change.

    Electrically Integrated Door Trim System -- This Lear innovation integrates the wire harness and electrical components, such as door switches, into the door trim panel, as well as mounting the sound system speaker on the panel. By incorporating all these items into the door trim panel and then installing the electrically integrated door trim system on the vehicle door along with other components reduces complexity at the vehicle assembly plant and provides improved ergonomics during assembly.

    People-Vehicle-Interface(TM) Methodology (PVI Method(TM)) -- Lear's exclusive People-Vehicle-Interface Methodology -- or PVI Method for short -- is the innovation development discipline Lear employs to turn a market opportunity into stylish and functional products that consumers want and need in their vehicles.

    Lear's six pillars of PVI begin with Consumer Research to define consumer preferences based on extensive testing, focus group studies and physical measurements. The second pillar, Industrial Design, interprets consumer data to conceptualize and create unique solutions to meet the demands of tomorrow's automotive interior components and systems. That is followed by Engineering, where Lear engineers develop new products that meet the needs of both Lear's customers (automakers) and consumers, focusing on safety, modularity, low mass, comfort and convenience.

    The fourth pillar is Technical Analysis in which specialists provide analytical and developmental expertise to assess the performance, longevity and function of each component or system.

    The PVI Method's final two pillars are Manufacturing Process Development and Validation. The former focuses on the evolving manufacturing processes to produce superior components as well as to bring products to market faster. Increased recyclability, while reducing cycle time and costs, also is important. Validation is conducted at Lear's recently expanded, state-of-the-art testing facility that is part of the Lear Corporation World Headquarters and Technology Center in Southfield, Michigan (USA). There, products are tested and certified to meet the government specifications and the individualized needs and requirements of Lear's customers.


                                            Lear Corporation:
                    A Proud History In The Asian Automotive Industry

    Lear Corporation began operations in 1917 as American Metal Products producing metal seat frames, and today is a global leader in providing automotive systems to major automotive manufacturers in Japan, Asia Pacific and around the world.

    Lear's heritage includes a long history serving Asia's automakers and providing superior products to meet the needs of the Asian market. Lear is the global leader in automotive seat systems, as well as one of the world's top three suppliers of headliners, electronics, door panels, and flooring and acoustic systems.

    In the past five years, Lear's business outside of Europe and North America has grown dramatically. For 1994, Lear reported sales of $196.3 million in rest-of-world (ROW) markets. Lear's 1999 ROW sales were $811.4 million -- a compounded growth rate of 42.6 percent.

    Lear conducts business with most major Asia Pacific automotive manufacturers including Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota in North America and Europe; Isuzu, Mazda, Subaru and Suzuki in North America; Chang'an Automotive, Daewoo, GM-Holden, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Mahindra & Mahindra, Mitsubishi, and Mazda in other markets. Lear also has business with PSA, Ford and General Motors through their joint ventures in the Asia Pacific region.

    Lear has a growing presence in the Japanese market. The company has facilities with engineering and design capability in Japan -- located in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagoya. Lear currently ships electronics and switches to the domestic Japanese market from its operations in North America and the Philippines.

    Lear also has a significant presence in the Asia Pacific region. The company's Asia Pacific Operations, headquartered in Singapore, has facilities in Australia, China, India, Philippines and Thailand.

    Since 1990, Lear has been producing high quality leather seat trim covers in Thailand for its seating operations in Europe and North America. In 1995, Lear opened facilities in Australia and India to provide just-in-time seating to General Motors. In 1998, the company won a contract to design, engineer and manufacture a total interior for Mahindra and Mahindra in India. Lear also opened facilities to provide just-in-time seating to Mahindra on its current vehicle platforms.

    In May 1999, Lear advanced its global business with the acquisition of United Technologies Automotive (UTA). Of special significance was the addition of world-class electronic and electrical distribution systems capabilities. The acquisition also expanded Lear's worldwide presence into the Philippines, adding engineering and manufacturing in Cebu. The engineering center supports electronics and interior products. The manufacturing facilities produce wire harnesses for the domestic, North American and Japanese markets.

    In addition to its wholly owned operations, the growth of Lear's Asian automotive business has been enhanced by a number of important partnerships.

    In 1987, Lear and NHK Spring Company Ltd. of Yokohama, Japan formed General Seating, a joint venture company that capitalized on NHK's manufacturing system and Lear's technology for seat systems and other interior components. General Seating has just-in-time seating plants in Frankfort, Indiana (USA) and in Woodstock, Ontario (Canada). Its customers during the past 12 years included CAMI Automotive (a General Motors-Suzuki joint venture), Honda and SIA (a Subaru-Isuzu joint venture).

    Another joint venture with NHK, General Seating (Thailand) Co. Ltd., was established in late 1996. This venture provides just-in-time seating to Ford/Mazda and other automotive manufacturers.

    Lear and NHK recently established a research and development operation based in Dearborn, Michigan (USA), along with Lear's Transnational Division, which oversees Lear's interest in General Seating. Its close proximity to the Lear Corporation World Headquarters and Technology Center complex provides access to Lear's total systems capabilities including state-of-the-industry design and validation operations.

    In 1996, Lear made its first expansion into the rapidly emerging Chinese market, forming a joint venture with Jiangling Motors Co., Ltd. of Nanchang, China. The new company, Lear-Jiangling Interior Systems Co., Ltd., initially supplied seats and interior trim for Isuzu trucks and Ford Transit vans produced at the Jiangling Motors plant.

    In 1998, Lear increased its presence in China announcing joint ventures with Chang'an Automobile to provide full interior components for Chang'an Automotive in Chongqing; Shanghai Car Carpet to produce automotive carpets for Shanghai General Motors in Shanghai; and Shanghai Vehicle Awning to produce interior trim components for Shanghai General Motors.

    Also through the UTA acquisition, Lear assumed an ownership interest in a joint venture with DCAC in Wuhan, China. The joint venture produces wire harnesses for PSA and next year will begin to export wire harnesses to Citroen in France.

    In 1998, Lear announced a joint venture with Hanil to produce full interior systems for Hyundai's manufacturing plant in India.

    Lear also assumed UTA's majority interest in a joint venture with Furakawa of Tokyo, Japan, now doing business as Lear-Furakawa. The joint venture is based in El Paso, Texas (USA) and produces wire harnesses for Honda, Isuzu, Mazda and Subaru for the North American market.

    When Lear acquired Masland Industries in 1996, it also assumed Masland's ownership interest in AMTEX, which has operations in Lebanon, Ohio (USA) and Manteca, California (USA). This joint venture, formed by Masland and Hayashi Telempu of Nagoya, Japan in 1983, produces flooring and acoustic systems and other interior products for Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, NUMMI (a GM-Toyota venture), Subaru and Toyota for the North American automotive market.

    Lear Corporation, a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Southfield, Michigan (USA), is one of the world's largest automotive suppliers, with 1999 sales of $12.4 billion. The company's world-class products are designed, engineered and manufactured by more than 120,000 employees in over 300 facilities located in 33 countries. Information about Lear and its products is available on the Internet at http://www.lear.com .

ots Original Text Service: Lear Corporation Internet: http://recherche.newsaktuell.de

Contact: Karen Stewart-Spica Director -- Technology Communications of Lear Corporation (USA) 248-447-5396

Company News On-Call: http://www.prnewswire.com/comp/518304.html or fax, (USA) 800-758-5804, ext. 518304

Web site: http://www.lear.com

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