Suppliers to the auto industry have to be increasingly nimble innovative and geographically diversified in order to meet the needs of the ever-changing market. One of those successfully navigating through the waves of change is ixetic.
Automotive Industries (AI) spoke with Georg Wolf, Management Board Chairman of ixetic at the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA) which took place during September in Hanover this year, and asked what had changed for ixetic in the last 12 months.
Wolf: The main issue is the big platform business – you have to be in it for seven to 10 years. The business that we’ve got into in the last two years is much bigger in volume than before. We are supporting engine platforms, which require huge volumes. Our challenge, apart from volume, is to follow the customers worldwide. In the past, our company was focused primarily in Germany and Europe. Now the picture is changed completely, and we have had to prepare the company to be a global player. That was the biggest change for the company in the past year.
AI: How well are you prepared for the electrification of the auto industry?
Wolf: First we have to distinguish what is behind electrification. When we talk about electrification, we are talking about a very small volume of full electric cars. It’s clear that we are not going to have millions of electric cars within the next few years. On the other hand, we are talking about hybrids as well as the electrification of the powertrain.
We do not sell a product, but a function for fluid management, so we have to be well prepared. We have to know how the fluid is managed – is it with electric driven pumps, or with belt or mechanically driven pumps? In the last few years we’ve built an organization that is capable of developing software, ECUs for the control units, and also electric motors. What we showed at the last automotive show in Frankfurt, and in Hanover, is the complete thermo management electrically driven compressor for managing battery packs. We have also developed electric-driven pumps covering more or less all ranges. What must follow now is the volume, which is still weak. I think we will see a lot of electrified products in the next year judging by our current mechanical portfolio on the market.
AI: What alternative solutions do you offer at present?
Wolf: In the past, we only dealt with power steering pumps. Following the trend for CO2 reduction, our product portfolio is now completely changed. We have done a lot of development in the field of transmission fluid management, which will be the biggest part of our portfolio in the next five years. We also developed the next generation of vacuum pump technology delivering reduction of weight, reduction of energy and also thermo management for battery packs. We are looking at the world of non-automotive, where we can use our knowledge in thermo management, for example, in vending machines and other applications. We’ve already seen the first success and I think that in the next couple of years, a serious business will follow.
AI: What efforts have you made to meet the OEMs’ demand for efficiency?
Wolf: There is room for improvement in almost every product in the car, and especially in the powertrain itself. There is a big waste of energy in the engine management and in the transmission. We were the first company in the world to introduce vane technology in the environment of the transmission. What we see is that a lot of transmission producers are switching from gear type pumps to vane pumps. Currently we are number one worldwide, providing the most efficient pump technology for transmissions. We’ve also developed tandem pumps, full mechanical switchable vacuum pumps (on/off) combined with variable displacement pumps for all engines. This is our contribution towards achieving the next goal of 95gr CO2 per km.
AI: What new technologies can we expect from ixetic?
Wolf: ixetic is in transition - from traditional pump producer to a company supporting customers with mechatronic products. In the next year we will see a lot of new products where we’ve combined our knowledge of software, control units and hardware (pumps and pump functions together). We will also see products with more than one function, with a system function where we’ve combined several customer demands.
AI: Any new products?
Wolf: At the IAA for commercial vehicles in Hanover, we presented our new electric power steering pump drive. It allows commercial vehicles to be equipped with a hybrid drive without having to modify the existing hydraulic steering system. There is also our new battery cooling system for hybrid vehicles and an ethanol pump for commercial vehicles.
AI: How do you see ixetic’s global positioning changing in the future?
Wolf: Our near future is fixed. For the next five years our business is booked with new series launches. Our goal is to increase ixetic’s volume worldwide. The biggest challenge is to support our customers locally. A new facility in China will enable us to support our customers in the region. The next strategic step for ixetic will be to open a site in North America. We will do that by the end of next year. We have to remember that the global financial crisis was not long ago. We used the time to develop the company and the product portfolio so the organization’s global footprint could increase together with our customers worldwide. Five years from now, ixetic will be a real global player.