Preh catches more interior business

  • 12-Dec-2008 11:13 EST
I-Drive Controller_BMW 7series.jpg
The iDrive controller on the new BMW 7-Series is being supplied by Preh, a company that was not involved with the first generation of the iDrive.
BMW's second-generation iDrive system and an interior application on the 2009 Ford F-150 pickup truck represent new business for a Germany-headquartered supplier.

"The F-150 contract is for a North American application, and it is the first order we've received from Ford in Preh's history," said Nick Lontscharitsch, Senior Vice President of Sales for Preh, which developed the HVAC control head hardware and the climate control software.

Produced in Mexico by Preh, the HVAC control heads are done in three versions: a single-zone manual control, a dual-zone automatic temperature control, and a remote climate control module that operates via the navigation system's controls. The dual-zone automatic temperature control's optical encoders are integrated in the printed circuit board. "Because the electronics are decoupled from the mechanical haptics, the tactile feel of the control knobs could be changed in another model year without affecting the electronics of the system," said Lontscharitsch.

The first-generation iDrive controller, which launched in 2001 on BMW's flagship 7-Series, was "heavily criticized by users and the media. It had one knob, and it did not have short-cut buttons. To access specific HVAC comfort features, for instance, you had to go through many different menus, so it was very cumbersome and not intuitive at all," Lontscharitsch said.

Preh is the new supplier for the iDrive controller, a next-generation device that features a center control knob that operates by turning, tilting, and pressing. "Available as optional equipment is an iDrive knob and center stack knobs made of a ceramic material. We believe this is the first production passenger vehicle application of ceramic for interior knobs. In addition to having a comparatively higher singular weight, the ceramic material strengthens the distinctive haptic feel, and the material feels cool to the touch even at an ambient temperature," said Lontscharitsch.

The iDrive system provides seven buttons and/or rocker switches for direct access to core menu functions. BMW's new 7-Series has the Preh-supplied iDrive, and other BMW vehicles are slated to use the Preh-supplied controller. "BMW is our largest customer," said Lontscharitsch. In addition to the new iDrive controller, Preh is also supplying the BMW 7-Series audio and HVAC control system, which is located in the center stack, a black panel display in which the function icons (such as the interior temperature and fan blower speed) illuminate when the ignition is engaged.

"This black panel display's surface is new technology," said Lontscharitsch, referencing a transparent foil with a special hard coating that makes the panel scratch-resistant. The technology that enables the panel's individual function icons to appear is also spotlighted on the PrehCon center console concept, which had its North American debut at the Convergence 2008 event in Detroit.

Preh's PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) was first seen in high-volume production on the BMW 6-Series HVAC controls. "PrehCon technology features include a switch block. The upper part of the switch block is a plastic button that has a genuine metal surface appearance provided by Preh's PVD technology. The button has a laser-etched symbol, which can be backlit. The lower part of the switch block shows an example of Preh's translucent PVD where the surface appears as genuine metal and where a symbol is only visible when it is backlit, and that's a technology that is not yet in production," Lontscharitsch said, adding, "Preh is very much a technology-driven company."

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