A free surface in the central console? You don’t have to ask the accessory specialists twice.
The ability to design their own car right down to the details based on their personal preferences has become increasingly important to customers. This was true even before the ADAM set the standard for individualization. And it is reflected in the development processes at Opel. At a very early stage, four years before a car goes on the market, the 35 members of the Accessory&Personalization team are already standing by to create clever solutions in cooperation with vehicle developers. Need an example? Jochen Glock, Head of Personalization and Accessory Development, places the central console of the new Astra on the conference table.
The basic configuration features an unused surface under the infotainment area. With a footprint measuring 8 cm x 15 cm, the space is a playground for the accessory specialists. Once it had become clear that the space would be available, the team went to work. PowerFlex Bar System is the name of the modular option the employees developed here for customers interested in the new Astra. The stylish cover, which is available in every interior color, boasts a row of elegant, chrome-colored bars that conceal the power supply. When combined with the award-winning universal smartphone mount, the system allows people to safely stow away their second favorite toy and charge it at the same time.
DEVELOPED FOR THE CAR
“The car air fresheners that people used to hang from
their rearview mirrors now have a new look at Opel.”
But it gets even more extravagant. With two deft hand movements Glock removes the smartphone mount and attaches an elegant, chromium-plated frame “The car air fresheners that people used to hang from their rearview mirrors now have a new look at Opel,” says Glock with a smile, as a subtle fragrance activated by the power supply spreads from the AirWellness fragrance diffuser throughout the office. Holding up two varieties that are currently available, the engineer asks, “Would you prefer Energizing Dark Wood or Balancing Green Tea?”
The fragrances were created by renowned perfumer Andreas Baron Freytag von Loringhoven. “As you can see, our work holds many surprises,” says Glock. In his view, the mission is to ensure that accessories do not remain detached from the process, or worse, are designed after the fact. “We develop accessories as fully integrated vehicle components,” says Glock in summing up the work. Only in this way is it possible to implement innovations like the PowerFlex Bar System, which is connected to the Astra’s power supply.
EIGHT DIGITS MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
“As trite as it sounds,
these eight digits
make all the difference.”
Lying on Glock’s desk beside the Astra’s central console is a matte-black, rectangular component made of hard plastic 15 centimeters in length and flaunting the Opel logo. At first glance it appears unremarkable, even dull. That impression will quickly fade in the next five minutes. Jochen Glock takes a deep breath and provides a detailed explanation of the laborious development and validation process it has undergone. He reports on crash tests it has weathered and describes the “outstanding teamwork” that went into its making; employees from Safety have had a hand in it, as have staff members from the Legal, Supplier Quality, Finance, Styling, and Sales departments. Then he goes on to list the many possibilities it offers. It helps keep things orderly, makes driving safer and children happier. He ends the lecture with the following statement: “I’ve had it in my own car for three months. Once you realize the advantages, you’ll never want to do without them.”
↑ The video shows how easy it is to exchange the clippable decorative panels on the dashboard of the ADAM. As Glock puts it, “This gives dealers a serious edge. If a customer wants precisely this ADAM, but doesn’t like the interior, the dealer can switch out the panels by hand in just a few moments.”
What has the chief developer of the Accessory&Personalization team so excited? The FlexConnect Adapter, the official name of Opel’s all-rounder. Equipped with a hook and attached to the headrest of the driver’s seat, the adapter ensures that bags stay firmly in place when the driver hits the brakes. Thanks to a unique clothes hanger, coats can go for a ride without getting wrinkled. And when combined with an iPad mount, the adapter lets children enjoy entertainment programs in the back seat during long drives. The adapter is one of 50 families of accessory products currently offered by Opel (see the diagram). From interchangeable decorative trim to mudflaps, from parking pilots to roof racks, the range of accessories is broad indeed. But they all have one thing in common: a part number that is always eight digits long. “As trite as it sounds, these eight digits make all the difference,” says Glock, a tried and true Opel man with 17 years at the company. As Glock goes on to explain, these numbers are only assigned to parts that have gone through the laborious process he just described. “The part numbers guarantee maximum quality and safety,” he says and leans back calmly in his chair. Sure, you could drop by an electronics store and pick up a tablet mount. “But in a worst-case scenario, namely an accident, you will find out this was not a wise decision.”
THE DRIVERS OF INNOVATION
Twice a year, the Accessory & Perso-
nalization team joins the Advanced Vehicle Development department in hosting an Innovation Day. Each and every employee at the ITEZ is invited to develop ideas in collaboration. The engineers at Opel last came together on 24 July. “It is astonishing the ideas that emerge in the course of a few hours,” Jochen Gock is pleased to report. The next Innovation Day will be held in the first quarter of 2016.
The accessory specialists would not be fully integrated into the Vehicle Development team if they did not have strictly confidential innovations waiting in the wings. In Jochen Glock’s office alone there are four other devices, among them a structure consisting of various hoses. Thomas Bachmann, a bionics researcher and the team’s Advanced Vehicle System Engineer, followed the example of nature in developing this device. “It is a clever cleaning system for the rear-view camera,” Glock explains, quickly arousing the employees’ interest. For security reasons he is not yet able to explain exactly how it works. “But it is based on how animals clean their eyes,” says Bachmann in explaining the simple yet effective method for removing dirt and grime from the camera lens. “Nature provides plenty of inspiration, and we here in Development open ourselves up to its influence,” says the bionics researcher.
Whether the problem is keyless entry or cyber security, if the subject is infotainment innovations you would do well to have Markus Bleimann on the team as Technical Lead Engineer. He is eager to report on his favorite development. But here as elsewhere, the project is still confidential. All he will reveal is: “It will gain enthusiastic support among urban drivers.” This is not the first innovation the accessory specialist has submitted for a patent. A dozen applications are in the works. “When we are especially convinced by an idea, we put it on the fast track,” says Glock. In other words, a special development budget is used to bring an idea to maturity as quickly as possible. As a result, there is a good possibility that we here at Opel Post will soon be able to report more about the new innovations being developed by the accessory specialists.
Last updated October 2015