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AI interview with Bob Riedford, president of Buehler Motor, Inc.

Despite the current automotive industry landscape, Buehler Motor, Inc., or BMI remains focused in North America. The company recently relocated and expanded its U.S. headquarters in Morrisville, N.C., to a new 14,000-square-foot North American Technical Center. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that this new center is one of the most modern and efficient in North America. It allows us to more easily meet our North American customers’ growing demands for technically advanced and environmentally responsible motor products,” said Bob Riedford, BMI president and general manager.

BMI’s parent company is the German firm Buehler Motor GmbH, which delivered more than 22 million mechatronic drive units worldwide in 2008. These drives are made for a number of industries including the automotive, aviation, building and office equipment, and medical device markets. Buehler Motor is currently contracted to supply its auxiliary water pump for General Motor’s Chevrolet Volt Extended-Range Electric Vehicle and CODA Automotive’s upcoming electric five-passenger sedan.

Located near the Research Triangle Park in Raleigh-Durham, Buehler Motor’s new North American Technical Center or NATC achieved the highest rating for environmentally friendly information technology compliance. According to Riedford, the NATC will also serve as the U.S. hub for Buehler’s customer service commitment and its newly established national partner network.

“With significantly expanded engineering, prototyping and testing capabilities, we’re already delivering drive solutions for our customers’ next-generation green products. But beyond the products we design and develop for our customers, Buehler is also establishing its own internal green manufacturing and operating processes as part of our goal to become one of the world’s most environmentally responsible motor component manufacturers,” says Riedford.

Some of Buehler Motor’s automotive solutions include those for drivetrains that help cut CO2 emissions while improving safety and driving comfort. The company also manufactures shift and clutch actuators for automated manual and dual clutch transmissions, motors for transmission oil pumps in start/stop and hybrid systems, electromechanical gear shift actuator for automatic transmissions and transfer case actuators.

Other automotive products made by Buehler include pump drive systems for vacuum pumps, brushless DC or BLDC water pumps for thermal management, blower motors for pre- and auxiliary heaters, air-intake manifold actuators, EGR valve actuators and VNT actuators. The company also makes power closure systems, drives for spoilers and tops and glass adjustment and power folding for mirrors for car bodies. Plus, gears for steering wheels, consoles, seats and rear blinds.

Some of Buehler’s automotive clients include Audi, Continental, General Motors, Gertag, Hella, Johnson Controls, Magna, Porsche and Volkswagen, and have worked as an OEM supplier for almost every top-tier automaker in Europe, Japan and America. The company recently contracted with a major commercial engine supplier to provide BLDC motors to drive fuel pump assemblies designed to reduce emissions in off-highway commercial vehicles.

The company says its custom-made drive solutions have helped cut the carbon footprint across the world. For the automotive market, its electric drives in oil pumps help maintain oil pressure in start/stop automatic transmissions. The company-made electrical water pumps maintain energy optimized thermal management in internal combustion engines or cool the batteries of hybrid and electric cars.

An important part of Buehler’s philosophy is eco-consciousness. The company has worked on green technologies including the design of drive solutions for environmentally-friendly applications as well as constant optimization of design, products, and processes to protect the environment as a whole. The company says that for more than ten years an annually updated environmental life-cycle assessment has documented its progress towards ever-improving, environmentally conscious and resource preserving production. In line with this, Buehler Motor has got its certified environmental management system under the ISO 140001.

Automotive Industries spoke to Bob Riedford, president of Buehler Motor, Inc.

AI: What are some of the new automotive technologies Buehler is planning to launch in 2010?

Buehler Motor is excited to be working with General Motors and seeing the Chevy Volt application reach the marketplace in late 2010. Our newest generation BLDC water pumps will be introduced on the Chevy Volt later this year. Buehler has been fortunate to draw significant OEM interest for our brushless pump products, including CODA Automotive who recently awarded us business on their upcoming electric vehicle platform.

AI: Why has BMI expanded its facilities in North America? Are you upbeat about business prospects there and if so, why?

We are definitely upbeat and optimistic about our business prospects in North America. The past year was a challenging time for the entire automotive industry. However, Buehler Motor is operating at a high level of efficiency and adapting to new market demands, which has helped us endure the past year and position ourselves for growth in 2010. Our expansion and opening of the new North American Technical Center are direct results of growing demand for environmentally-friendly applications, especially in the automotive sector.

AI: What are some of the challenges facing BMI in its quest to increase its exposure to environmentally-friendly technologies?

The challenge for Buehler Motor, and all of us in the automotive industry, is to maintain volume growth and demand for environmentally-friendly vehicles. To meet these challenges, Buehler is focused on partnering with our automotive OEM and Tier 1 customers to ensure we are delivering technologies that will ultimately result in better, more environmentally-friendly vehicles that appeal to a greater number of consumers.

AI: Where do you see future growth of the company coming from?

Environmentally-friendly vehicles are more prevalent today than ever. As a company, we see growth in hybrid/electric vehicles as OEMs continue to develop technologies to meet growing consumer demands. Within these vehicles there are a number of motion requirements that Buehler Motor is especially well suited, such as the low noise, high efficiency pump solutions introduced on the Chevy Volt and high-efficiency, long life motor designs for transmission and start/stop applications. In addition, we see continued growth in CO2 reduction technologies for traditional internal combustion engine designs.

AI: What is your strategy in fuelling growth in your automotive division?

Buehler Motor’s GreenTech automotive strategy is a three-pronged approach to growth in the environmentally-friendly automotive sector. The first is utilizing production methods optimized around energy-conscious manufacturing; second is developing new products using advanced simulation methods to maximize efficiency and use of innovative material technologies; and the third is focusing on green applications such as thermal management for electrical components and maintaining fluid pressures in next-generation transmissions for hybrid and electric vehicles.

AI: What are some of the other regions where you see a good potential for growth in the automotive sector?

Buehler Motor’s global footprint allows us to take advantage of growth opportunities in multiple regions. In the European automotive market, we see continued growth as we support our OEM and Tier 1 customer’s developments of environmentally-friendly vehicle technologies. We also see tremendous growth opportunities in the Chinese automotive market where Buehler already has a presence with two manufacturing locations, and plans to increase sales and marketing activities in the region.

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