Automatic lid and gate drives have become standard equipment on all but the lowest-specced vehicles in all segments following the development of gas spring technology, which together with electromechanical drives – has made it possible to open and close doors and lids at the push of a button.
Ongoing development by market leaders such as Stabilus is adding new functionality: “Continuing improvements, weight and installation space reduction, as well as increased performance, are the reason for our market success in this demanding application. The result is a very impressive product, the POWERISE system: a push on the remote control will conveniently open, close and stop lids in any intermediate position. Integrated sensors reliably detect and eliminate safety risks due to improper operation or use,” says the company, which has grown from being a component manufacturer to a system supplier.
In 2001, Stabilus launched DORSTOP, a stepless door positioning system that variably adjusts door-stay, and prevents the unintended closing of doors. This has been followed by POWERISE, an electric lid drive system. Besides such innovations Stabilus’ core business is in the production of gas springs and hydraulic dampers for the commercial vehicle segment, and is the sole supplier for a number of applications for trucks, busses, trailers, RVs and construction machinery.
With its headquarters in Koblenz, Germany, the global presence of Stabilus includes plants in the USA, Mexico, Brazil, China, Korea, Romania, Australia and New Zealand, as well as
a global sales and service network. The company has doubled its rate of investment over the past year. For example, doubling its production capacity in China of gas springs products. And in Mexico, extending their assembly operation to manifest the success of the electromechanical POWERISE family – plus, fortifying their competitive position to support the strong growth in the NAFTA markets.
Stabilus has been under the stewardship of its 47-year-old Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Dietmar Siemssen, for just over a year. Siemssen, who took over the reins in June 2011, has extensive development and management experience in the automotive industry, and particularly in the high-growth Asian market. He joined Stabilus from Continental AG.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Siemssen how the expansion of the company’s Powerise plant in Mexico had helped grow its presence in the region.
Siemssen: Our Mexican plant follows our global footprint strategy to “manufacture in the region for the region.” It is ideally located in the northern part of Mexico, close to the large United States automotive market to the north, as well as local Mexican OEMs. Competitive cost structures on one side and motivated staff on the other help control cost and enable us to offer competitive quality products to our customers. The strategy is to increase production of Powerise in Mexico, and to double the gas spring manufacturing capacity in China.
AI: How will you double production capacity in your China plant?
Siemssen: China is a huge success story for Stabilus. Not only have we successfully participated in the impressive market development, we have significantly outgrown it by securing new market share and penetrating into new segments and customers. The next steps of expansion in China will follow the blueprint of our strategic success in a very fast-growing market, and will include the introduction of new products
AI: What new products is Stabilus offering automotive OEMs?
Siemssen: Stabilus offers a large variety of specialty gas springs featuring additional and special functions to improve ergonomics and comfort, such as solutions to compensate for adverse impacts of temperature patterns. The ability to stop gas springs in predefined positions helps owners handle larger rear doors of vehicles, for example.
AI: How has Stabilus evolved from being a component manufacturer to a system supplier?
Siemssen: When we first came up with the idea of POWERISE it became very clear to us that this innovative product would present challenges way beyond the sheer product or its components. The transition from component supplier to system supplier was a very exciting process, overcoming a number of challenges with a great and dedicated team benefiting from our long history of project experience, competence and technical expertise. Everything happens so fast in this extremely dynamic environment that we really did not have the time to worry about setbacks or even failure, but had just to focus on our mission.
AI: What is Stabilus’ strategy to grow in the automotive aftermarket?
Siemssen: Stabilus will do all it can to leverage the advantages of being an OEM supplier, and offer aftermarket products of high OE quality level with all OE functions. The strategy is to offer best program coverage, which means the widest range of relevant products compared to other suppliers and distributors in this segment. On the distribution side, Stabilus will go even more global – reflecting the market developments in regard to sales potential. Stabilus has gained the status of being one of the top trading companies in the independent aftermarket. We wish to expand to all potential markets around the globe.
AI: What technologies did Stabilus showcase at Auto¬mechanika Frankfurt, 2012?
Siemssen: Stabilus made a strong statement about its position as market leader through a noticeably bigger presence at the Frankfurt Automechanika exhibition. First and foremost, we showcased a wide range of products for replacements. We also demonstrated the company’s strength in innovation and technical leadership to the visitors, which is part of our positioning strategy. It was one of the first opportunities for the aftermarket to see the Powerise technology. Automechanika was very successful for us.
AI: How would you rate your first year at the helm of Stabilus – what are some of the major changes the company has undergone this past year?
Siemssen: The successful transition from component supplier to system supplier has already been mentioned. As such, Stabilus was able to win key platforms with key technology partners in the POWERISE business. During the past year we developed STAR, our long term strategy process where we plan to double the size of Stabilus by 2020.
The recently implemented organization structure based on a matrix with global Business Units, as well as strong regions and functions, improves our global set-up and enables us to support our customers closer and faster than before. All in all, we are well on the way on the path to a strong future.
So, how would I rate my first year at Stabilus? Highly dynamic, a lot of fun!