Brose eyes mechatronics business with Indian OEMs

German mechatronics player Brose has ambitious plans of consolidating its presence in India. It plans to leverage the growing potential of the country’s automotive market and could well bag the order for supplying window regulators for the saloon version of Volkswagen’s Up hatchback, which is believed to be headed India’s way next.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 01 Feb 2012 Views icon5381 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Brose eyes mechatronics business with Indian OEMs
Brose is already a supplier for the Up in Europe, providing manual and power window regulators for the model without electronics. As VW explores new growth segments where it does not have a presence and plans fresh products for India, the scales are heavily tilted in favour of Brose continuing to remain a supplier of window regulators for the Up sub-four-metre notchback, which is being specifically developed for India.

Discussions are believed to be underway between VW and Brose for its India ‘Up’ requirements, although nothing concrete is on the table so far. But the order is expected to be a big one as the Up project will require additional investment of at least 500 million Euros to build fresh capacity. This will include an engine plant to meet the high levels of localisation required in this segment and huge volumes to justify it. The existing supplier tag will be a positive for Brose in winning the new order as VW takes on board suppliers based on regions and markets.

Brose's expanding local footprint

A relatively new entrant to India, Brose opened its manufacturing facility at Hinjewadi in Pune in February 2011 and currently produces around 600,000 window regulators annually for exports for the VW Up.

A family-owned company, Brose plans to localise its entire product portfolio in India in the long term. It has four product groups including window regulators and door systems where it is a Tier I supplier, and motors and seats in which it is Tier II.

The company is now looking to expand its presence in India with the introduction of new technologies in window regulators and seat adjusters, while positioning itself as an important mechatronics supplier to the Indian automotive market. Next month it proposes to add a second production line for a manual seat height adjuster targeted at a Tier I supplier in India.

Another two production lines are slated for addition by the second quarter of 2012 with both to produce window regulators for global OEMs based in India. Potential customers of Brose India are believed to be Ford, Nissan and GM. Series production of side door latches at Pune will commence in the first quarter of 2014.

All this will necessitate future investments in the Pune facility. “We plan to triple our production capacities by 2014. We also continue to invest in the advancement of our local suppliers to establish an efficient and quality focused supplier base. This enables us to offer OEMs a reliable partnership and ensure that international quality standards are met with cost-optimised products,” said Ashwani Aggarwal, president, Brose India recently. Brose India currently employs some 150 people in Pune for the development of electronics, electric motors, window regulators, seat adjusters and closure systems for the Indian market as well as for international customers of the Brose Group. The location also manages regional procurement and provides IT services for the corporate group.

New tech advances

While Brose is producing ordinary power window regulators without electronics this year, it is also working with some vehicle manufacturers to introduce a new anti-pinch safety feature in the power windows in upcoming passenger car models. This will require electronics. Aggarwal visualises great potential for the company’s products and says that safety features and electronic systems such as anti-trap systems for window regulators and doors are increasing in the Indian market. Brose also plans to increasingly focus on weight reduction and enhancing efficiencies in products in line with market demands.

Brose achieves weight reduction through mechanical engineering of materials, designing of smaller parts, trimming the number of components used, and leveraging lightweight materials that could include different grades of plastic.

Citing an example, Rajesh Kulkarni, vice-president (global services, India), Brose India, adds that a classic window regulator assembly is equipped with metal guide rails, the part on which the window slides. “We have developed a plastic window regulator that cuts weight using an advanced technology and design.”

While Brose offers power window regulators with an electronic feature called ‘auto down’ in which a press-button facilitates the movements of the glass up and down, the difference lies in that the button does not require to be pressed continuously for the window movement — one touch is sufficient for raising or lowering the glass.

The anti-pinch safety feature, on the other hand, incorporates an electronic sensing mechanism in the motor assembly. This senses an obstruction and automatically reverses the glass to lower it. This device is especially useful for children sitting in the rear seat, who stick their necks out from the car window or who place their hands on the window while the glass is being wound up. The anti-pinch feature helps avoid such accidents. Brose showcased its anti-pinch power window technology at last month's Auto Expo. Though this will push up prices, the mechanism is expected to reduce weight and enhance fuel efficiency, safety, and comfort. Brose is believed to be the first company to introduce the anti-pinch feature in Europe 15 years ago. Meanwhile, in the past decade, a significant shift has been witnessed in the Indian market from manual to power windows, a trend that Brose expects to get a boost over the next five years, according to Kulkarni. It also foresees safety devices in window regulators catching customer fancy as the car market develops further in electronics and safety content, in line with more stringent safety norms.

Brose’s key customers are located in Europe and its technology is developed in Germany. A team of engineers in India works with local customers in understanding their requirements and engineering the product for the local market.

Brose is still in the initial stages of consolidating its presence in India, having started operations in 2006. The gestation period for a product ranges from eight to 24 months and while Brose has order bookings in its kitty, it will take a couple of years before more advanced technologies like the anti-pinch safety feature make it into the Indian market.

However, Brose does not believe it is a late entrant to the Indian market as its USP is its technology engineered for lower weight and noise. The company maintains its products are tailor-made and cut weight by as much as 15–25 percent for different variants. In the last 10 years, Brose is believed to have reduced weight in seat systems by 45 percent globally.

Last year the company invested 300 million euros as against sales of four billion euros globally. Kulkarni says the company’s investments are need-based and will follow a similar pattern in India. While safety features in cars are popular in higher-end models today, the trend of leveraging them for smaller cars is fast catching up in India. This is pushing the conversion to power window regulators and newer technologies in all segments.

Brose is a leader in the development of seat adjuster mechanisms that it plans to introduce in India in phases. Even as its manual seat height adjuster gets ready to roll off the Pune production line next month, work on recliners and sliders for various OEMs is underway.

Interestingly, Brose also displayed a power liftgate mechanism at the Expo and feels the SUV and MUV segments could be a suitable category for its introduction in the long-term. The opening and shutting of the liftgate is activated by extending a foot below a capacitive switch below the rear bumper, allowing a user with his or her hands full of shopping, for instance, to open the liftgate effortlessly.

In 2012, the company is targeting sales of 4.4 billion euros globally and is optimistic about establishing a firmer footprint in India during the year on the back of new orders.

Shobha Mathur
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