We had heard rumors of what company was producing the new iDrive system software (Harmon) but really have been unsure of the hardware manufacturer. Now we know. BMW went to the source their top competitors, Audi and Mercedes Benz,utilize for hardware: Preh Inc.

Preh inc. produces climate control, radio units, and other electronics for current BMW models and will for the future 7 Series. This company has flown under our radar until now but we are very impressed with their product line and overall investment in future technologies.

The biggest surprise in this release is that the new controller utilizes ceramics to add weight and add a sense of coolness to the touch.

Full release below.

Preh Inc. News Release:

For the first time, Preh supplies iDrive Controller for the new 7-Series
Preh GmbH, Bad Neustadt/Saale, in cooperation with BMW, has developed control systems and ECUs for the new BMW 7-Series, leading to series production.

This includes the new iDrive Controller in the middle console and the rear, the so-called “center stack” with controls for the audio and climate functions, the rear climate controls, as well as ECUs for integral active steering.

iDrive Controller for the Middle Console and Rear

The new generation of iDrive Controllers is being manufactured for the first time by Preh. To the essential characteristics of the iDrive Controller belongs, in particular, its logical and simple control guidance. Thus, for example, seven separate buttons and/or rocker switches provide fast and direct access to the core functions of the menu prompts. The center control knob responds to turning, tilting and pressing, with an especially precise haptic and is optically emphasized at nighttime by means of a backlit corona ring.

Audio and Climate Control System

The audio and climate control system from Preh is located in the center console which is slightly turned towards the driver. It is outlined in black panel display technology, where the individual function icons – like interior temperature or fan blower speed, for example – only appear after the ignition is turned on.

A unique feature of the audio system is the integrated proximity sensor system for selection of radio station buttons. With this, the driver needs only place a finger close to a button or lightly touch it, and the station frequency is indicated in the center display. The desired frequency is then selected by simply pressing the button.

The climate control system makes possible extended comfort functions: it offers not only separate temperature regulation for the driver and front seat passenger, but also for the blower and air distribution. Depending upon the selected vehicle equipment options, the control system is available in, among other things, versions with seat ventilation regulation, for example, which likewise can be set separately for driver and front seat passenger.

In the rear, the climate control is split up into one control device at the back of the center console, as well as two controls for rear passengers on the right and left of the headliner. Arranged centrally in the rear, the climate control regulates, among other things, the floor space air flow, as well as that for the lower body region. The controls by the headliner complement by steering the B-column air outlet to cooling the head and torso range.

At any time, the driver can control all climate zones in a simple manner – and also simultaneously in the rear by activating a button marked “All” beforehand.

Both, the audio and climate control system and the iDrive Controller are available with ceramics design as optional equipment – something quite new for a series vehicle. Ceramics not only provide a particularly noble appearance, but also for a so-called “cool touch, ” i.e., the surface feels cool at normal temperature. In addition, the comparatively higher singular weight of the ceramic material strengthens the distinctive haptic feel.

ECUs for integral active steering

A special Preh ECU (electronic control unit) also makes a contribution to the integral active steering control, available as optional equipment. It ensures that the steering ratio is adapted to the speed of the vehicle. When parking and at low speeds the integral active steering achieves a large steering angle at a relatively small turn of the steering wheel – ensuring a particularly direct steering control feedback. This allows less turning effort when parking. At higher speeds, the steering angle is smaller than at slow speeds with the result that any possible steering errors can be better balanced. An additional ECU controls the steering angle of the rear wheels.

Manufacturing in Germany and Portugal

Preh uses its locations in Germany and Portugal for the manufacturing of these driver control systems and ECUs. While the electronic controllers are produced in the parent plant in Bad Neustadt, Germany, production of the driver control systems come off the line in Trofa, Portugal.