A conversation with Stefan Buri about car interior materials of the future
5 questions to Stefan Buri:
Can you tell me a bit about Stahls’ role in car interior?
Stahl is a highly specialised chemicals company, and the expert in car interior materials and surfaces. We are the unrivalled global market- and innovations-leader in our field, and we firmly believe that everybody who owns a car have been in contact with Stahl technology. When entering a car and touching the door, the seat, the steering wheel, the gear knob, the door trims, the middle console etc., these are all components with Stahl technology on its surfaces, whether the substrate is leather or synthetics. Stahl has multiple touch-points in car interiors, and our surface technologies are what you see, touch, feel and smell. Stahl solutions you can find in every relevant OEM across the globe. We dare to say that our technologies can be found in almost every car model in the mid- and top-end range.
What is your background, and how did you come to work in your current position at Stahl?
My educational background includes an MSc degree in Industrial Management & Engineering from ETH Zurich. After having held different international management positions in the chemical company Clariant, I had the pleasure of meeting the CEO of Stahl, Mr. Huub van Beijeren. He was very convincing with his vision of Stahl for the automotive industry and the decision accepting my current position as Marketing Director for Automotive was an easy one. I am very happy to be part of Stahl and to further support the successful growth of our company.
What are Stahl’s latest and/or most innovative solutions for car interior?
Stahl has products and technologies that meet the most stringent specs of OEMs across the globe, which of course prohibits me from talking about specific developments we run with our customers. However, I would like to mention a few exciting Stahl technologies.
We observe trends across the industry, one with continuing shift towards lighter colors in car interiors, especially in the Chinese market where white interiors are becoming increasingly popular. This trend goes hand-in-hand with new requirements on surface technologies. Stahl’s 3rd generation Stahl Stay Clean™ technology that adds anti-soil properties to surface materials is a good example of one of the leading technologies Stahl is introducing into the global marketplace.
Another exciting surface technology Stahl has launched, introduced at the CES 2016 in the Rinspeed Σtos concept car, was a novel “Glow in the Dark” technology providing a differentiated mobility experience at night-time. This design features tanned leather using our chrome-free Stahl EasyWhite Tan™ process, covering the seat, dashboard, steering wheel and door panels. We are confident to see this design feature in series models in few years from now.
What is Stahl’s vision on sustainable solution for car interior?
Following the overall megatrends for a more sustainable and cleaner future, Stahl’s vision is to deliver on these trends. We are making the necessary investments already today, enabling the automotive interior supply chain to design the materials for tomorrow´s mobility. Good examples are our new bio-based finish systems based on renewable sources and our signature technology Stahl EasyWhite Tan™ that allows to produce metal-free leather trims with substantially improved sustainability credentials.
With a focus on sustainability and innovation, we are ready for the future.
What are you expectations for trim materials for automotive?
The overarching trend we observe is that the car interior will be at the heart of future mobility. In consequence, interior materials and surfaces will become increasingly important. OEMs constantly seek new ways to enhance the look and feel of the interiors of their cars. At Stahl we believe that more functionality will be incorporated into the surfaces, while enhancing the appeal of respective materials. Who says that a traditional material – let´s say a leather-wrapped IP – cannot evolve into an input/output device in the future? We at Stahl believe that if it can be imagined, it can be created.
Over the past 10 years, synthetic materials have evolved tremendously, and today have become a credible alternative for premium vehicles. On the other hand, there is no substitute for genuine leather. We as a chemical company believe that this traditional material needs to evolve. We believe that the future will bring new innovative surfaces that are appealing the consumers and that technology can open-up new forms of expression to the designer-world. As a material as such, leather is authentic and we are convinced that we will see this material as no. 1 option in premium car interiors still for a long time.