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Supplier lands Japanese EV deal

Side benefits: Engineers at Bosch Australia’s Clayton headquarters will now work on international EV projects following the company’s involvement in building an electric Commodore.

EV Commodore project helps Bosch Australia secure at least one overseas contract

31 Jul 2012

LOCAL automotive supplier Robert Bosch Australia has secured a contract with a Japanese manufacturer to help with the development of electrified vehicles, with a second deal currently under discussion.

Bosch Australia president Gavin Smith told GoAuto that the company’s contribution to Port Melbourne-based EV Engineering’s full-electric Holden Commodore enabled it to win the prestigious contract.

Mr Smith said the involvement with the local electric vehicle project and strong demand for its engineering services are helping Robert Bosch Australia to hold firm despite the downturn in sales of locally built large cars and uncertainty over the future of Ford in Australia.

“As a result (of the EV Engineering project) we were able to quote recently for two jobs, one of which is already secured, the other is still under discussion – the first positive results and really interesting projects,” he said.

Mr Smith also revealed that the next-generation Holden Cruze small car, codenamed D2XX, will “carry quite a lot of Bosch componentry” compared with the current model.

“For us that is very good thing,” he said. “Even now we are working on some of the content for that next platform.”

80 center imageFrom top: Bosch's Gavin Smith Holden Commodore EV.

He added that Bosch’s Australian manufacturing operation in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton, which now predominantly produces diodes, will “continue on indefinitely” and is “looking quite robust” following the loss of 380 jobs, announced in March last year as production of many components moved offshore.

While 90 per cent of products produced at Clayton before the cuts were exported, about 90 per cent of the components that went into them were imported.

“The supply of components into the domestic vehicle manufacturers has been a relatively small part of our automotive business,” said Mr Smith.

“So the changes at Ford and Toyota (both of which have slowed production and cut jobs) don’t have the same impact on us that they might have for others that are predominantly exposed to domestic manufacturers.”

Mr Smith hit out at negativity in the Australian media about the future of Ford’s local operation following the recent announcement that 440 jobs would go at Broadmeadows and Geelong, the latest reports being that automotive component suppliers are writing Ford out of their business plans post-2016.

He said such coverage “isn’t helpful for the industry” and suggested speculation that Ford Australia will cease vehicle production in 2016 could result in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Frankly, we shouldn’t be trying to speculate too much and fanning the flames of rumours. They are not helpful for Ford in maintaining their sales, so I would encourage people to stop and wait until Ford makes the decision and makes an announcement about what their future is.”

On a more positive note, Mr Smith remains hopeful that EV Engineering’s proof-of-concept Commodores have sufficiently demonstrated the capability of local suppliers that Australian vehicle manufacturers may be encouraged to one day produce EVs.

“It’s easy for car manufacturers to make decisions when they know that the capability exists to support it,” he said.

“It’s a lot harder when you don’t know the capability exists or you are not sure the capability exists. I think (EV Engineering) has been a very positive thing for the industry and certainly the components sector to demonstrate that.”

Bosch’s contribution of lithium-ion cells (and related technical support), fan control modules and stability control calibration to the EV Commodore program enhanced its standing within the German company’s global empire when applying for contracts to work on projects with international manufacturers.

“For specific types of projects, we have capability that is missing in our region so we often get looked at favourably for those projects earlier rather than later,” said Mr Smith.

In addition to work on Australian-built cars and the locally designed and engineered but Thai-built Ford Ranger ute, Bosch’s Australian arm has provided services to numerous international clients including Proton, Polaris, Mahindra, Jaguar, Honda and Harley-Davidson.

Clients also include Chinese manufacturers Geely and Great Wall, and Mr Smith said Bosch’s relationship with local manufacturers places it well to ride on the coat-tails of Holden’s recently announced deal to develop two cars for the world’s largest car market.

“We’re still waiting to see what those projects are, but certainly we are very well placed to do the application work here in Australia if those (Chinese) customers actually source Bosch hardware for the stability control.”

For how long Bosch Australia can keep tapping into the huge Chinese market is unknown as Mr Smith said China’s domestic capacity to develop and engineer Bosch systems is “large and growing” due to the nation’s sheer number of manufacturers and models.

However, he pointed out Bosh Australia’s strategy of remaining a visible part of the global organisation so it could be in the right place at the right time to step in and take on overflow workload.

“We make sure that we maintain the contacts with our colleagues in the different regions so that when they get to capacity overflow work can be considered for us.”

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