Comfortable seats that give all Fit passengers a pleasant ride Honda Fit Released February 2020

The Honda Fit revolutionized the compact car segment with practical features such as a spacious cabin
interior and a multitude of possible seat arrangements, as well as excellent fuel economy.
The full model change released in February 2020 also featured a completely redesigned seat.
As compact cars are used for everything from errands around town to longer journeys, the new Fit seats
were designed to provide enhanced comfort in addition to usability.
We asked project members to tell us the story behind the development of the seats for the newest Fit.

Profile

Yoshiyuki
Shizuno

Model LPL Department
LPL
(Large Project Leader)

Joined TS TECH in 1981. Worked on new model launches for 20 years at the Suzuka Plant as a mass-production process specialist. Following a transfer to the development division, he has applied his expertise and experience to the development of various models as an LPL since 2005. Was also the LPL for the previous model of the Fit.

Yusuke
Higano

Design Department
Design PL
(Project Leader)

Joined TS TECH in 2009. Involved in the development of the previous full model change for the Fit as a member of the Design Department. Served as Design PL for the new Fit.

  • *Departments and positions current as of time of interview

Interview

Seats so comfortable you feel the difference
the moment you sit down

What type of seats did you set out to develop?

Shizuno:
We kicked off the development project for the new Fit seats several years ago. We spent the first six months closely examining end users’ needs and the market, and features that were lacking in the previous model’s seats, as well as discussing the views and ideas held by our customer (Honda). We moved ahead with the project by combining our proposed concepts with our customer’s requirements. In the development of this brand-new seat frame, our aim was to create seats for a compact car that delivered ride comfort and design on par with what you would find in premium-segment models.

What features did you consider essential for the new Fit seats?

Shizuno:
What we focused on most for the new Fit seats was definitely comfort. To achieve a level that is on par with premium-segment models, we incorporated our next-generation seat frame. Designed to make seats safer, lighter, and more comfortable, this frame was developed by TS TECH with the purpose of using it in high-end models. The decision to use this frame in a compact car is indicative of the level of commitment toward the Fit.
One thing that is essential for superior ride comfort is how seats feel when passengers sit in them. The way a seat feels when a person first sits in it, or how well the person is supported after they have found a comfortable position—these factors are generally difficult to quantify. Yet we applied our expertise as seat manufacturers to assign values to each of these factors and identify the optimum seat shape to suit passengers’ various body types.
To ensure that the seats in the new Fit firmly support passengers’ bodies yet gently cradle them, the surface support structure in the seat comprises a suspension mat that uses a resin plate developed together with our customer, instead of the springs used in conventional seat structures. Unlike a spring structure that uses “lines” for support, the seatback and seat bottom are outfitted with suspension mats, “boards” that firmly support passengers from their spine down to their lumbar and pelvic regions (Fig. 1). The result is a seat that not only feels great to sit in, but also helps to maintain a posture that makes driving easier based on ergonomic principles, thereby preventing fatigue when driving long distances.

Higano:
Another key factor in superior ride comfort is the cushion used for the seat bottom. Both the front and rear seats feature a thicker cushion than the previous model. The rear seat in particular exemplifies the improvements we have made. In previous designs, seat folding mechanisms and other components located under the seat bottom made it difficult to increase the thickness of the cushion on which a person sits as the cushion would interfere with those components. While the solution may appear obvious—moving the interfering components—we revised the frame design from scratch so that we could use a thicker cushion while retaining the same level of practicality. The cushion has a major impact on ride comfort, and making the cushion thicker really helped to improve that comfort (Fig. 2). I am sure everyone will feel the difference in the seats the moment they sit down.

Shizuno:
From the outside, the rear seats may not look different from the previous model, but internally they feature a completely new design.

Higano:
They are also much lighter in weight, which is essential for improving fuel efficiency. We meticulously revised everything from the structure down to the smallest details of the next-generation frame, like designing it to be as lightweight as possible through means such as the use of a strong, lightweight material and the incorporation of resin plates as suspension mats.
The result is a front seat frame that is 28% lighter than our standard core frame*1.

  1. *1TS TECH's global standard seat frame is used in a wide range of models

High-quality seats that are functional and
elegant yet cost competitive

There are so many seat variations available, and they all have a superb, high-quality finish.

Shizuno:
The new Fit is available in five different trims to suit a range of lifestyles, but costs would quickly add up if different types of seats were developed for each trim. To get around this, we designed two primary seat specifications—fabric and genuine leather—and used a range of “universal” parts to generate different seat types, making it possible to efficiently produce a wide selection of seat variations. This approach not only keeps development costs down, it also allows for efficient production even when multiple types are required, which in turn reduces mass-production costs. Compact cars fall within a segment of the market with affordable pricing, so we were mindful not only of functionality but cost as well.

We also focused on delivering a premium finish, and we incorporated many internal features to achieve an aesthetically pleasing design. The genuine leather seats are an example of this. The thickness of leather is inherently uneven, so simply aligning stitching with the shape of the seat can cause the stitching to become loose or wrinkled. We utilized the wealth of expertise and knowhow gleaned over the years of seat manufacturing and avoided this through means such as applying a special process to the backside of the leather, or adjusting the firmness or thickness on the cushion side to create uniformity.

What difficulties did you encounter during this project?

Higano:
Typically we finalize all the specifications before creating a mold for mass production of seats, but we took a different approach this time with the new Fit. The reason for this was that the customer was very focused on boosting seat quality, even though it was already time to finalize all the specifications. There was a match between the way our customer does not want to make compromises and our commitment to wanting to deliver the best product possible. Yet creating the production mold after every last detail was finalized would cause mass production to be delayed. Instead, we applied a method that was used for the first time at TS TECH: separating the various production processes and beginning mass-production preparations for sections that had already been finalized, while continuing to review designs until the last possible moment for specifications that had not yet been finalized.

Shizuno:
This method of proceeding made managing the process more complex, but many staff members, even those who were not project members, across a range of departments supported us along the way.
The project also posed a challenge for those at the Suzuka Plant, which was in charge of mass-production, through issues such as the variety of specifications we had never dealt with before and the incorporation of the next-generation frame for the first time. Fortunately, many of my colleagues and superiors from when I was at Suzuka provided help along the way, and I think the project demonstrated the strength of our teamwork in the face of tough conditions.
Despite development tools and equipment becoming increasingly digitalized and more high tech, any vital teamwork still needs to be done like in the old days (laughing).

Suzuka Plant Members

Production team

Suzuka Plant Manager: Fumio Hattori / Welding Line Leader: Kazuma Yamanaka / Assembly Line Leader: Gen Shimase

Hattori:
The Suzuka Plant also produces seats for models like Honda's N Series, and now with the new Fit, the plant is producing almost the same number of seats that we did during our busiest years. Since the seats for the Fit use the next-generation frame for the first time, we incorporated many new materials and installed automated equipment, which could easily result in potential problems under normal conditions. Even with these challenges in mind, the entire plant made every effort to make the start of mass production a smooth one and serve as an example for other production plants located around the world.

Yamanaka:
I feel that the benchmark for quality required by our customer increased significantly with the new Fit. And I feel that our commitment to the Fit is just as strong. We have completely revised our frame welding line, installed new equipment to assist quality control and prevent operating mistakes, and implemented a high-quality, comprehensive traceability system. Armed with this new production system that we have continually fine-tuned, we are committed to producing seats that all end users will truly enjoy sitting in.

Shimase:
The seats for the new Fit have been developed with an efficient design that takes into account the production required for a wide range of types. Yet with so many materials and colors as well as different regulations depending on the export destination country, there are close to 100 different combinations available. This is a figure that would simply not be available for an ordinary compact car. Assembly work conducted at the production plant becomes more complex as the number of different specifications available increases. To accommodate this, we focused on training staff and improving production lines as soon as possible to ensure that our lines were capable of producing each seat perfectly with a high level of quality. We faced numerous challenges along the way, but we hope everyone finds a seat that they can call their favorite.

After the completion of this project

Mass-production would not have been possible without the cooperation of so many staff members

Shizuno:
We worked on the project from development to the start of mass-production with the firm belief that no task is impossible, but we faced challenges every step of the way—coming up with new ideas that met the customer's requirements, jointly developing a seat structure to deliver comfort, separating work processes to prepare for mass-production, etc. I feel that it was the effort and cooperation of project members that allowed us to reach the mass production stage without any major issues.
When we delivered the finished seats to the customer, they complimented us on just how good the seats felt, and being praised in that way was a great source of encouragement.

Higano:
This was the first time I served as Design PL, and I felt that there were many situations where I lacked the necessary expertise. Every time I felt stuck, Mr. Shizuno and my other colleagues provided their support and we were able to advance to the next process. I am truly grateful for their help. I am especially proud of the new Fit seats as they were created through the collective efforts of so many project members. I would love to have everyone sit in the seats and experience for themselves just how comfortable they are.

Dealer Comment

Mitsumasa Uemura

Honda Cars Utsunomiya-kita, Takanezawa Dealership

The seats’ firm support is indicative of their evolution

The new Fit is a model that is popular with people of all ages for its spacious interior, great fuel economy, and nimble, user-friendly drivability. Many customers (end users) consider good ride comfort an important feature, and we have heard from so many people that they also love the waterproof finish and the large range of seat choices that are available. When owners of the previous model of the Fit take a seat in the new model, they comment on how completely different the new seats feel from the previous ones. I, too, was amazed that the seats were so comfortable that they give users the sensation of being cradled, and I felt that these comfortable seats would help me to avoid fatigue when driving for long hours. I can recommend this product to customers with confidence.

A rear seat that is comfortable and convenient during both standard and assistive use Honda N-BOX

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