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Automotive Industries caught up with Roger Johansson, President of Trelleborg Automotive

As a former vice-president of purchasing for GM, Roger Johansson explains how he would describe Trelleborg Automotive's efforts in providing quality and innovation to benefit car-makers

Trelleborg Automotive has good reason to feel confident. It has world-leading technologies, a global footprint to rival any of its competitors and above all it has the full backing of one of the world’s largest none tire polymer companies.
Roger Johansson, President of Trelleborg Automotive recognises that there are many challenges ahead but he believes that they bring with them unparalleled opportunities.

Roger Johansson joined Trelleborg in August last year. He has an excellent automotive pedigree having spent much of his career working for General Motors, most recently as Vice President Powertrain Operations for Europe. A Swedish national Mr Johansson was an obvious candidate for this key position as head of a billion Euro company supplying polymer solutions that seal, damp and protect cars around the World. The automotive product offering includes antivibration systems, engine cooling and thermal management solutions, thermoplastic boots, brake shims, insulation systems and innovative damping materials.

At the time Roger joined the company it was just exiting a period of reorganisation triggered by the recent manufacturing exodus to Eastern Europe and the Far East. Committed to local supply as the best way forward for both customer and company, new plants were opened in Romania and the Czech Republic complementing an already impressive international portfolio of operations. Sadly the resultant capacity readjustment meant that plant closures in Italy and the UK followed shortly after. In December 2007 the company also announced the disposal of its UK based air spring business. The former Dunlop company was sold to a management team consortium for an undisclosed amount. 

Automotive Industries caught up with Roger just after this announcement and asked him what the future holds for Trelleborg and what it’s like when customer becomes supplier.

AI: Please tell us a little about your company’s anti-vibration solutions for the automotive industry.

We are recognised as being the market leader for the supply of antivibration solutions worldwide and that is something we are very proud of. Trelleborg has a strong technology base and we offer NVH solutions for powertrain, chassis, body and braking systems. We also hold leading positions for the supply of brake shims and thermoplastic boots used in driveline and steering applications and we have a strong share of the European hose market for automotive engine cooling and thermal management systems.

Customer focus, creativity and innovation are central to our organisation and we are constantly looking at ways to improve performance and reduce cost. Good examples of this include our focus on replacing traditional materials with thermoplastics and our recently launched air damping technology.

AI: Please tell us a little about your company’s global strategy. What is the thinking behind the sale of certain units (like in Coventry)?

We are operating in a global marketplace. Global platforms and global architecture are now standard features. To maintain customer focus we have to recognise this. Our customers require global management and local supply. We are witnessing explosive growth in the Far East, Russia and Eastern Europe, this is a positive for us, it means rapidly expanding markets that need our technologies. Our strategy reflects this, introducing new plants in China, India, the Czech Republic and Romania. We are also finalising a Joint Venture agreement with a leading Russian manufacturer of rubber to metal bonded components.

Cost, however, remains a crucial feature of the market and we have to position ourselves to better serve our customers and to take best strategic advantage of our global manufacturing network. This has unfortunately lead to recent plant closures in Western Europe as our customers relocate production further East.

AI: What kind of growth opportunities do you forecast for Trelleborg Automotive?

With our current global footprint we are ideally situated to benefit from the rapid global expansion the market is experiencing. Global platforms mean that customers are increasingly looking for suppliers who can offer design and manufacturing close to their own satellite and JV operations. As a supplier this means increased volumes and global growth. A recent example of this is the Renault Nissan P32 platform, or Qashqai. The Qashqai will shortly appear in Europe as the Renault Koleos, in Korea as the Samsung QM5 and in North America as the Nissan Vogue. All models share system architecture and components and we are proud to be a part of this global project.

AI: How do you hope to increase sales in the Americas and Asia?

Our global manufacturing strategy will play a great role in this, but we are also looking to expand our customer base and increase sales to the Japanese and Korean manufacturers. We have already had some success with this following our partnership with Korean manufacturer KunHwa and the setting up of a satellite sales and design office just outside Tokyo. Another goal is to increase our presence with the indigenous Chinese and Indian manufacturers through local manufacturing and design. Russia and Eastern Europe are also important for us, Russia offers great opportunities and our Joint Venture will help us realise this potential.

AI: As a former vice-president of purchasing for General Motors, how would you describe Trelleborg Automotive’s efforts in providing quality and innovation to benefit car-makers?

Our innovation teams work with the customer in mind, stripping cost out without compromising performance, developing new materials to replace rubber and steel, searching the globe to find best in class suppliers. We are constantly reviewing our procedures and product designs to take cost out and improve quality. But we believe that what really distinguishes us from our competitors, and makes us a truly interesting proposition, is our global reach and our ability to offer consistent levels of design, manufacture and service wherever our customers choose to operate.

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