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Target: Europe

Delphi Europe President Volker Barth discusses a more distinct European presence for Delphi.

As president of Delphi Europe, Volker Barth is responsible for activities in 22 countries (including the Middle East and Africa). Headquartered in Paris, Barth is in charge of 50 plants and a total workforce of 50,000. Growth in the last two years has been healthy, he says, partly because of Delphi’s overall capabilities and partly due to the company adopting a more distinct European presence and “face.”

Q. What do you see as Delphi’s main opportunities as a European supplier?

A. “We are very strong in the switch and actuator business. Then with our overall electronics competence, which we have recently enhanced with our Grundig acquisition in telematics and navigation, we have the opportunity now to bring to Europe the technology we have already developed in the U.S. much faster.

“Another huge growth area we have is in diesels. Because of the dominance one supplier has in Europe, it’s very appreciated that there’s now another very competent player. Lucas (Lucas Diesel Systems was acquired by Delphi in 2000) was always a very creative company, but with little discipline. So we combined our capability of lean manufacturing, of very formalized and focused engineering development, with that creativity and created a very competent player in the diesel injection business, not only in common rail, but also for heavy-duty injectors.

“We have already doubled the business Lucas had before and we are looking in two years from now to having about 2.5 million systems per year. We have won huge contracts, even in Asia-Pacific, which we initially will supply out of Europe and then transfer that technology into Asia-Pacific.

“Also, our electric power steering is right now really grabbing customers and looks to be a big success. In the chassis arena, MagnaRide and stability control systems are starting to get a foothold, as is the combination of systems, to enhance active safety.

“In terms of future growth, we are in the infant stages of safety in general. We have great safety technologies in the U.S. We just need to find a way to transfer those technologies and convince our customers here in Europe that what we’ve done in the U.S. is the appropriate technology here.”

Q. Do you think we are on the verge of another revolution in the application of electronics to vehicles?

A. “I do think there is a lot of switching from mechanical hydraulic to mechanical electrical systems, which in addition allow the electronic controls. This brings several advantages. These systems are safer, more reliable, much easier to be tuned, and easier to be combined.

“So today, with controllers on brakes, engine and steering, you don’t have to wait for the vehicle to react to what’s happening and you can build a totally different car; much more agile, much more safe, one that prevents the driver from making mistakes.”

Q. Which areas of advanced chassis systems — electrical brakes, steering or chassis controls — do you think will be developed first?

A. “I think we are already pretty advanced in steering. I believe that brakes might be last because you will still have hybrid braking, or electrical front braking/hydraulic rear braking. Chassis controls will be become more and more standard.

“However, in terms of car dynamics, everybody wants to be a Michael Schumacher. Even the older generation still wants to feel in charge of the car. So one of the biggest challenges we have is to make the car safer, but at the same time, not to have the driver feel that the car does something he didn’t initiate. So you need to manipulate the driver in a very positive way without frightening him.”

Q. How are you dealing with the issue of effective communication throughout your supply chain?

A. “I think I’m one of the more accessible people. Perhaps I am also somebody who might be a little bit more outspoken than they should be. I do have very good discussions and make myself available for many supplier seminars.

“At the same time, when you look at my team, I’m not the boss. I’m not a boss type, I’m a coach type. I want to be recognized for what I can do and what I can help. Delphi overall has changed the way that we deal with our suppliers. The old Lopez times are gone. We want to have much more strategic relationships and even alliances with our suppliers, which doesn’t mean we go into a total love affair. We do have our objectives. Our supply base has to recognize what we have to do for our customers. We do believe that managing the value chain in a more objective, proactive and shared vision/shared objective-type way will get us where we need to be.”

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Wed. July 17th, 2024

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