Debut of Johnson Controls' new infotainment system in Fiat concept car at Geneva International Motor Show/ Touch-sensitive materials for greater comfort and individuality

Burscheid, Germany (ots) - While the exterior of the new Fiat "Trepiůno" concept car may be reminiscent of the beloved old Fiat 500 - the interior of the small retro-look vehicle clearly points the way to the future. Instead of switches, the driver operates functions with a simple touch of the smooth surfaces. Fiat will present its new concept car at the Geneva International Motor Show from 4 to 14 March, in conjunction with Johnson Controls, one of the world's leading suppliers of automotive interior systems, interior electronics and batteries. For the Fiat "Trepiůno", Johnson Controls developed the center console with integrated MultiController, a menu-driven system for controlling vehicle functions, as well as the corresponding screen in the instrument panel and the central control panel below the display.

New design featuring smooth surfaces

The key operating control in the new concept car is the MultiController. The designers at Johnson Controls integrated this controller into the center console, where it can be reached easily for intuitive operation by both driver and passengers. Just like a computer mouse is connected to a monitor, the MultiController is linked to a TFT (Thin Film Transistor) screen that folds out from the center of the instrument panel when needed. And, similarly to the way in which a computer user focuses his attention on the monitor and not on the mouse, the Fiat "Trepiůno" driver has all the information he needs on the screen within his field of vision. So there's no need for him to take his eyes off the road.

The MultiController has neither switches nor buttons. A short tap on its translucent silicone surface is all it takes for the driver to convey his wishes. This is made possible by "ElekTex", a new pressure-sensitive fabric that can transmit impulses arising from a mere touch. This innovative textile can be freely integrated into a vehicle's interior surfaces. Buttons and switches can be eliminated, without any reduction in functionality. This opens up a host of new interior design options.

The MultiController incorporated in the "Trepiůno" is the product of some two years of development work at Johnson Controls. One outcome of this work was the "Sensory" concept, which the company first presented at last year's International Motor Show in Frankfurt. This concept entails a project development approach that focuses on appealing to the full range of human senses. Sensory stimuli have both a conscious and subconscious effect on the emotional value of a car. "We developed Sensory based on our consumer research. For a long time now we've been keeping a close watch on trends, in order to better understand what demands drivers place on new vehicles", explains Han Hendriks, Executive Director Marketing and Industrial Design at Johnson Controls. The MultiController is an outgrowth of the Sensory concept and is especially designed to match the form language of Fiat's new concept car.

Unified look and feel

In the central control field of the instrument panel, located below the monitor, the controls for HVAC, defroster, fog lights, hazard lights and "City Mode", which facilitates steering in city traffic, are also integrated into the surface. All of these elements are equipped with LED illumination. When a function is switched off, its light glows dimly, and as soon as the user touches it to turn the function on, the light gets stronger.

The central control panel is covered in the same translucent silicone as the center console. This allowed the designers to achieve a unified look and feel. "The harmony of materials and colors in the interior was particularly important to us. Our collaboration with Johnson Controls helped us to achieve this in the 'Trepiůno'", says Humberto Rodriguez, Head of Fiat Design.

Cooperation at Fiat Centro Stile in Turin

A team of designers and engineers from Fiat and Johnson Controls worked together at Fiat Centro Stile in Turin to create the interior of the concept car. Han Hendriks emphasizes the fact that: "More and more, our customers are tending to involve us at an early stage in the development process. For this concept car, we already started working with Fiat during the pre-development phase. When we are brought on board early on, we have an ideal opportunity to incorporate our ideas into the development process, resulting in the automaker being able to present a better overall product to the consumer."

Photos will be available under www.johnsoncontrols-press.com.

Johnson Controls, Inc. is one of the world's leading suppliers of automotive interior systems and interior electronics, as well as in the areas of facility management and control. In the automotive market, the company is a major supplier of vehicle seating and interior systems and batteries. For non- residential facilities, Johnson Controls is one of the leading providers of building control components and systems as well as energy management and facility management services.

Johnson Controls (New York Stock Exchange: JCI), founded in 1885, has its headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The European headquarters is in Burscheid, Germany. The company's worldwide sales for 2003 totaled US$22.6 billion, the Automotive Group alone accounting for US$17 billion of this figure. In the current "Industry Week" business magazine rankings, Johnson Controls has been listed as one of the top 100 best-run companies in the world for the sixth time in succession.