Treasures from our past

May 2015

In 1965, RECARO revolutionized automotive seating when it presented the Sportsitz at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt

“After the IAA nothing was the same as before!” In 1965, RECARO revolutionized automotive seating when it presented the Sportsitz at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. The new model’s immediate success should hardly come as a surprise. After all, even back then the seat embodied the combination of functionality, ergonomics, and aesthetics that RECARO now calls “Ingenious Design.” To this day, the ever evolving Sportsitz’s DNA is still found in each of our products — whether on the road, in the air, or for the next generation. Jörg Resag, who was at Stuttgart’s  Karosseriewerk Reutter starting in 1960 and took over seat development at RECARO in 1963, recalls how it all started in RECARO GROUP NEWS.

How did the development of the Sportsitz get started?

“Porsche worked with Reutter to develop the body for the new 901. We were responsible for developing the seats. However, due to time and cost considerations, Porsche didn’t want a completely new product. Since the seat from the 356 was good, it was simply modified. Nevertheless, we — .e., the team of seat developers: Wolfgang Fussnegger and I along with prototype builder Peter Trübiger — had been working on something new on our own. We had support from the technical director Werner Strien and the sales director Walter Schäfer.”

So the development work wasn’t in vain. What happened next?

“Various things came together at just the right time to influence the development of a new seat, particularly new safety standards from the United States. We knew from rally racing that seats with a shorter spring deflection were generally good, but were not comfortable enough for road traffic. It was finally time for orthopedically correct seating to be introduced to standard vehicles! New car models presented the opportunity to really bring something better to the market.

So as not to be dependent on a single customer, we needed a solution for a broader target group. Then came the innovations and sketches from team autonova, which we adapted for serial production. Overall, each of these developments meant that we were able to introduce the first Sportsitz at the IAA in Frankfurt in 1965.”

So did RECARO’s first product of its own come at the right time?

“In principle, yes, but we were still caught off guard by the success in Frankfurt and subsequent demand for the seat. In the beginning, we had planned for the Sportsitz to be developed as a small series, but then we were completely overwhelmed. We still hadn’t come up with a price for the new product, but our sales director Walter Schäfer was delighted even though we didn’t have enough production capacity: ‘I’ll sell 1,000 seats a month for you guys!’ Some could even be sold as aftermarket seats with mounting brackets. This was also completely new. This meant that we had to come up with a new structure to really get the seat ready for serial production.”

So you went from the prototype to a brand-name seat?

“After the motor show, all of the parts had to be re-engineered and tools had to be created to make the seat ready to sell as fast as possible. We got all this done really quickly. This laid the foundation for subsequent installation. At the same time we also had to identify the most important vehicles — especially those with the worst standard seats — and develop a solution to replace those seats with our Sportsitz. Even though the idea was to ensure that sporty vehicles could be equipped with our new product, we believed that ultimately every motorist should benefit from our promise to deliver both a safe and comfortable seat.”