Ford Vehicles In Grandville, Michigan

How Lawn Chairs Helped Ford Develop Vehicle Seats

December 10th, 2012

Whether it’s a long road trip or a daily commute to work, you don’t want driving to be a pain in the… back.

That’s why Ford vehicles have a dedicated Global Seating Comfort Team led by Mike Kolich, Ph.D., Ford Seat Systems Engineer, who is also called “Dr. Derriere” around the office. This team has been focusing on anything and everything seat-related since the team was created in 2005.

According to a University of California study, the average driver spends 101 minutes per day on the road. Therefore, Mike and his team know the importance of their contributions to your, um, behind-the-wheel experience – it’s riding on them to ensure that drivers of Ford vehicles are comfortable and relaxed. Huge responsibility, right? Also throw in the necessity to create seats that are lightweight to help with reducing vehicle weight and therefore contribute to a vehicle’s impressive fuel economy, and you’ll know they don’t spend a lot of time sitting down on the job. Wait, technically….

“We leverage a number of technologies to measure seat comfort, including machines that measure how the human form in all its shapes, sizes and weights interacts with a seat, and we use this data to quantify what our customers consider comfortable,” explained Mike.

For example, the 2013 Ford Escape is the first Ford vehicle with a global seat architecture specifically designed to conform to the Ford seat DNA. The DNA is a set of quantifiable measurements for each system in a new vehicle designed to provide a consistent feel across all Ford vehicles worldwide. “We used to think Europeans liked aggressively shaped seats with firm cushions while Americans preferred flat, cushy seats,” he said. “The reality is that regardless of the size and shape of a driver’s backside, they tend to value roughly the same characteristics when it comes to comfort.”

How they did this included a zillion tests with drivers and passengers around the world, both in the lab and in vehicles, and they also used a unique seat carousel and a dummy that closely replicates the human body and enables engineers to collect more detailed data about pressure points on the back that ultimately lead to seats that provide better support where it’s needed. Ford is among the first automakers to use this new mannequin.

And about the lawn chairs: The team is always studying seats from other industries, including lawn chairs and high-end office chairs, in the quest to develop even smaller, lighter-weight seats.

Mike also revealed, “We have biomechanists in our group who study how people should sit to avoid back issues. Most people don’t like to be told how they should sit. Our seats are designed to let people adjust for their individual preferences, and still deliver the support they need for their health.”


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