IAA Mobility 2023: A seat developer’s view IAA Mobility 2023: A seat developer’s view

There are not too many dates in the automotive industry that supplier companies such as soft trim seating sts GmbH mark in bold and red letters on their calendar at the beginning of the year. However, the IAA Mobility is one of them. For Olaf Hofmann and Kai Rudolph, the international industry get-together from 5 to 10 September is a must-attend event where networking and the joy of discovery are not forgotten. But one thing is different this year: many major car manufacturers are missing. To find out whether this is an opportunity or a risk for the supply industry, we took a tour of the fair.

The IAA MOBILITY takes place for the second time in Munich under the motto ‘Experience Connected Mobility’. Even if one of the world’s leading platforms for mobility, sustainability and technology is far from its heyday in the mid-2010s, it was able to attract 400,000 visitors when it premiered at its new location in Munich two years ago.

Exciting preconditions

For seat developer and manufacturer soft trim, however, the initial prospects are more exciting than ever. With the ongoing internationalisation, more and more Chinese car manufacturers and mobility providers are presenting themselves. This year more than ever before have shown up. “Of course, we're keeping a close eye on this. Not only does it open up new markets, but it also brings in new competitors with innovative ideas or interesting solutions. This also stimulates our own work as well as give us new perspectives,” says Olaf Hofmann, Head of Technology and Development at soft trim.

Meanwhile, the customers and service providers of the Dresden-based seat developer react to these developments with great innovative spirit. “The development budgets of many of our customers have been significantly increased. This is also a challenge for us, because the manufacturers are making ever higher demands on their suppliers. It is becoming increasingly important to meet these requirements at high development rate. This also means we must be able to estimate how certain areas will develop in the future. Look, for example, at the development of sustainable materials. Many plastics and covers in the interior are now made from recycled raw materials. Anyone who is not familiar with these materials and cannot process them will sooner or later fall by the wayside,” explains Olaf Hofmann.

Therefore, the soft trim managers first headed for the companies they are associated with. “From important suppliers like Brose, with whom we work closely, to FORVIA/Forecia and Magna, to the major manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, there were some that we were really interested in. So, it was important for us to talk to each other in order to maintain these good contacts,” explains Hofmann.

Positive atmosphere and many impressions

“The bottom line is that the IAA’s open concept convinced us. The mood among the visitors was noticeably good and it seemed very well attended. The sunny weather in Munich certainly contributed to this. From a technical point of view, the IAA has made it clear that the developments surrounding tomorrow’s mobility represent a great opportunity for flexible, specialised companies like us. At the same time, this opportunity also brings with it challenges that we must and will face,” concludes Olaf Hofmann after a day at the trade fair full of new impressions.