Ripple Effects: West Michigan automobile suppliers gain on pull for modernized technologies

As a automotive attention pursues cutting-edge technological breakthroughs in unconstrained pushing and car electrification, West Michigan suppliers contingency safeguard they’re not left behind. 

While suppliers in a segment might not be directly concerned with building unconstrained pushing software, many are incorporating value-added niches into their operations as new record is developed. 

“It’s my knowledge that many of these suppliers, while they are over down on a food chain, they’re still really responsive of what’s going on and they’re perplexing to be pragmatic,” pronounced Mike Wall, executive of automotive investigate during IHS Automotive in Grand Rapids. “Many of them have a genuine clarity of those areas where there might be a risk for a business. How do they compute their product or get into some other diversified categories?”

Wall points to companies expanding their product portfolios into sectors that hold modernized technologies, even if it’s outward of a components they routinely produce. 

For example, some suppliers are opting to make battery trays and separators to accommodate electrication technology, while others are building stretchable seating that allows drivers to adjust their position in a cockpit. Tire manufacturers also are operative to hide sensors into their products to magnitude barometric vigour and tire condition, Wall said.

“Obviously, with unconstrained vehicles, stretchable seating is going to be paramount,” Wall said. “You’re going to wish seats that spin around so we can lay face-to-face with a people you’re articulate to. You demeanour during a Honda Odyssey and it had second-row seats that went side-to-side and front-to-back. That’s not a same thing as an unconstrained set-up, though you’re saying that flexibility, even in a area of components like seating. 

“Those suppliers that are means to take advantage of that, there’s a really near-term aspect to record deployment and new member activity.”

For Grand Haven-based GHSP, a multiplication of JSJ Corp., modernized foundation record has usually remade a classification over a years from a association essentially focused on involuntary components to one that’s integrating some-more and some-more wiring into a products. 

“It truly has been utterly a extensive transition we’ve been going by over a final 10 years or so,” pronounced GHSP President Jeff Smith. 

Looking to a future, a manufacturer of shift-by-wire delivery components and electrical pumps skeleton to boost a bearing to modernized electrical technology. 

“From an origination plan standpoint, we don’t wish to extent ourselves to only a driveline or a driveline transmission,” Smith said. “We will be looking during a origination of record in other applications and potentially other industries as well.”

While Smith declined to divulge accurately that markets and technologies GHSP was considering, he did note a association aims to boost investigate and enlargement on products in a powertrain area. 

“Being a smaller company, a ability set and a resources we’ve combined over a final integrate of years prepares us really easily for a trail brazen with some of a new automotive record that’s going to be introduced,” Smith said.


For some West Michigan suppliers, modernized technologies play a poignant purpose in pushing growth. 

“Currently, a modernized facilities comment for approximately one-half of income growth, that is essentially driven by a enlargement of frameless interior counterpart executions and electronic content,” Neil Boehm, clamp boss of engineering during Zeeland-based Gentex Corp., pronounced during a discussion call with analysts to plead a company’s quarterly results. 

Gentex (Nasdaq: GNTX) manufactures a accumulation involuntary dimming rearview mirrors and wiring for a automotive industry. The retailer usually has augmenting a record integrated into a components over a years. 

At a 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Gentex denounced several products formed on modernized motorist assistance and connected car technologies. The association skeleton to offer an integrated side and rearview camera monitoring complement permitting automakers to cringe a earthy distance of exteriors mirrors, that Gentex says will trim weight and boost efficiency.

Moreover, Gentex also denounced a biometric complement commissioned in a rearview counterpart that can brand drivers, start a car and adjust a mirrors, seats and other components according to their preferences. 

“This form of complement would be ideal for new and elaborating mobility solutions, such as car-sharing programs,” Gentex Senior Vice President Steve Downing pronounced in a matter announcing a technology. “The biometric complement would brand a driver, sanction car use and allot payment, including incidentals like tolls and parking, and eventually even gas and quick food.”

In a many new gain statement, Gentex pronounced it expects to beget $1.78 billion to $1.85 billion in annual sales for 2017, driven by augmenting shipments of a extraneous and interior mirrors. The association generated $1.68 billion in sales for 2016. 

Despite a fad in a attention over modernized technologies, automakers and suppliers have had some difficulty selling those advancements. Many automotive reporters were vicious of a record displayed during final month’s North International American Auto Show in Detroit, as automakers traded a high-horsepower and outlandish judgment cars for displays of technologies that might or might not be implemented in a years ahead.  

“That is one of a transitions for a attention that’s going to be difficult,” pronounced Dave Andrea, executive clamp boss of investigate during a Center for Automotive Research, an Ann Arbor-based attention group. “The automobile shows historically have all been around a pleasing piece steel or a outlandish judgment vehicles. Now it’s how do we uncover off a bluetooth connectivity, how do we uncover off an instrument cluster or what those instruments do.”


While dabbling in foundation or unconstrained technologies isn’t for each automotive supplier, roughly all of a components or systems manufacturers have enlargement opportunities by lightweighting. 

As automakers essay to accommodate Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, any weight assets suppliers can emanate — regardless of a components they furnish — can assistance set their organizations apart, according to Wall of IHS Automotive. 

“There are so many opportunities on lightweighting,” Wall said. “Suppliers don’t indispensably have to be in a materials business per se. I’ve seen suppliers demeanour during their components over a public holistically and slice weight out of that, formulating an public that removes an middle partial or streamlines a construction of a assembly. That all depends in terms of pulling weight out of that vehicle.”

Despite a several opportunities to supplement value by lightweighting existent components or assemblies, one West Michigan association has built a automotive business only on lightweighting technology. 

Walker-based Plasan Carbon Composites Inc. produces CO fiber hoods, rocker panels and other components for opening vehicles like a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, Dodge Viper SRT and Shelby Mustang GT500KR. 

“You can take 20 pounds out of a hood only going from aluminum down to CO fiber, that is significant,” pronounced Michael Newell, clamp boss of blurb operations during Plasan. “When you’re looking during powertrain components, they’re happy to get a half-pound out, where in a hood portion, if we can get 20 pounds, we have to take a demeanour during it. That’s where we’re set adult now and aggressively posterior those opportunities.” 

Plasan generates annual sales of approximately $85 million and employs 550 people in Walker, Newell said.  

With automakers’ ardour for lightweight components increasing, Plasan skeleton to enhance a products from opening cars into oppulance vehicles and other segments. Newell records that vehicles with plaque prices for some-more than $50,000 are “prime targets” for CO fiber components. 

Within a subsequent 12 to 18 months, a association also skeleton to start production constructional CO fiber for tools like doorway beams and fender beams, Newell said. 

Both of those initiatives are aided by a company’s approximately $40 million investment in automation technology, that has decreased a cycle times of an extraneous cosmetic partial from 17 mins to as small as 8 minutes, Newell said. Non-cosmetic tools can be constructed in approximately 3 minutes.

“Now as we start to get into a automation, that’s where you’re saying a cycle time improvements that concede we to make a some-more unchanging part, make them faster and giveaway adult ability during a trickery in Walker to supplement some-more revenue,” Newell said. 


Beyond products, a pull toward new modernized technologies could emanate opportunities for some suppliers by augmenting understanding flow. 

“We no longer see converging pushing MA activity,” Jeff Zaleski, U.S. automotive deals personality during PricewaterhouseCoopers, settled in a firm’s 2016 year-end MA report. “Today MA activity is about enlargement into new technologies, new services and new business models.” 

Globally, automotive companies sealed on 583 deals in 2016, and experts envision that understanding volume will sojourn clever in 2017, in partial since of a “increased gait of innovation,” according to a report. 

Wall of IHS agrees with that view and records that suppliers might have some-more opportunities to acquire record as some incomparable suppliers start to strew groups to concentration their organizations. Larger automotive suppliers also will positively hunt for acquisitions that will assistance them boost their record development, he said. 

“You could staff adult a program group that’s large and have them formula until they’re blue in a face and build that adult within,” Wall said. “Or do we buy that asset, those patents and all of that egghead bottom and build it from there? … That’s on a mega scale, though we consider you’re going to see (technology-based acquisitions) on some-more of a micro scale as it relates to smaller suppliers.” 

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