Magna International

Mechatronics Means Smarter Products

Magna engineers are relying on mechatronics, sometimes called the “new language of the automobile,” to develop groundbreaking products like SmartLatch, power liftgates and power side doors systems in an efficient and cost-effective way.

The multidisciplinary approach blends a thorough understanding of mechanics, electronics and software. It also encourages collaboration across our groups. When you combine mechatronics with Magna’s ability to supply nearly every part of a vehicle, it’s an unbeatable formula unlike few offered in the automotive industry.

“All the roadblocks go away with us,” said Scott Mitchell, global director of new technology and innovation for Magna’s Closures and Mirrors group. “We look at what’s holistically best for the vehicle. No one supplier can do what we can.”

Magna’s SmartLatch electronic side-door latch system is a perfect example of how mechatronics works to bring the best products to market.

SmartLatch was praised as an industry game changer when it debuted on the BMW i8 and Lincoln Continental. It operates completely electronically and requires no cables, rods or moving handles in the door. In addition, SmartLatch opens up new exterior styling possibilities, since designers can skip the traditional mechanical handles.

Magna not only provides automakers with a sophisticated latch, but also has the ability to supply the whole door, including hardware, software and seals. We produced the electronic control unit for the SmartLatch system, wrote the software for the ECU and put the whole system together.

Global automakers recognize SmartLatch as an innovative, lower-cost latching system. Since its introduction, we have won new contracts for the system with European and North American automakers. Consumers will see it on more mainstream vehicles in the near future.

SmartLatch also was part of the LiteFlexTM door project Magna announced last year in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, FCA US and Grupo Antolin. The new door architecture achieves a 42.5 percent mass savings compared to an average current production door. Light-weighting helps to improve fuel economy and reduce vehicle emissions.

Another example of the benefits of using a mechatronics approach to product development is our work on power liftgates.

We were first to market with the popular convenience feature on the Dodge Caravan minivan and we now offer improved liftgate technologies, including a sensor based system that detects the user’s actuates the liftgate.

With mechatronics, we are uniquely positioned to meet challenges such as vehicle electrification, light-weighting, safety and autonomous driving with smarter products.

Magna engineers joining forces at the intersection of mechanical and electronic systems are already considering gesture recognition and biometric scanning as they develop new door technologies. Their work may change the way we enter and exit our vehicles in the future.

“Mechatronics drives our innovations,” Mitchell said. “It’s all about what cool technology can be added to a car to make life easier.”