Category: Automakers

Accurate To Half A Micron

Accurate To Half A Micron
Accurate To Half A Micron

Bernd Bohr,

Robert Bosch GmbH, Head of Automotive Engineering Born in 1956 in Germany, graduated from the University of Aachen in 1982. Technological engineer, doctor of technical sciences. In the company "Robert Bosch" since 1983. Then - an assistant to the company’s management (1989), production director of the Bosch Japan branch (1993), head of development of brake systems and ABS Robert Bosch (1998). Since 1999, he has been the vice president of the company, and since 2003, he has been the head of automotive technology.


- Dear Mr. Bohr! Allow me to consider this small detail as your gift to the editorial museum. From us, accept the advertising leaflet of the Bosch representative office in Russia at the beginning of the last century. And what would you focus on today if you were to start your business in our country from scratch?

- I think, after all, on diesel equipment: after all, in our hands more than half the world market! Then we were the first manufacturers of magneto for cars - now it can only be compared with Intel microprocessors for computers.

- And who are your main competitors - and in what segments? I am primarily interested in Japan.

- In my opinion, the most progressive are still Europeans. Take at least ESP and ABS systems - they have gained popularity mainly due to our company. The strength of Americans is the low price of products. As for the Japanese, this, of course, is a high school of quality. I also note that in Europe the main focus is on safety, and in Japan, the main thing is the comfort of the car.

- Yes, in Japan only 7% of cars are equipped with stabilization systems, while in Germany - 67%. But it turns out that although the Japanese are walking in your shadow, they are very good at scoring points …

- Markets do not develop in parallel. Active safety is very important for Germany - there are autobahns without speed limits, and snow and ice in winter. And, let’s say, a driver from Tokyo drives at a low speed in stop and go mode. Hence the low need for stabilization systems. However, in the past 10 years, the Japanese have been catching up with Europe on innovation. An example is hybrid cars. Here they are ahead of Europeans and Americans.


- Do you have any cooperation with the Land of the Rising Sun?

- This is a very important point of our strategy! Since the mid-1980s, we have been building factories in Japan - today about 9, 200 employees work for them, of which 1, 000 are engineers in a research center. In 1997, we acquired a controlling stake in Zexel and today we produce fuel equipment, ABS, brake booster, as well as control units for airbags and automatic transmissions there.


- Is the Japanese government giving you the green light or is it somehow resisting the arrival of competitors?

“Bosch has been working in Japan for many years. We can invest there freely, and customs barriers are very low. However, competition in the Japanese market is very strong.

- We touched two powerful poles - Germany and Japan. And what does Russia and China look like “from those territories”?

- We came to the Chinese market before many competitors - at first we sold licenses, and in 1995 we created two joint ventures for the production of gasoline and diesel injection systems. Later they organized their production of ABS. We sell more than half of the turnover with China through on-site production. The same is in Russia. January 26th marked the tenth anniversary of our factory in Engels. At first it was a joint venture, but gradually it became ours - with 1, 200 employees. They produce components of gasoline injection systems, spark plugs and motor wiring harnesses.

- What is the attitude of the Russian government towards you in comparison with the Chinese authorities?

- We are guests in these countries and see a manifestation of goodwill and openness to dialogue.

- Back to the topic of quality. According to the results of our recent examination of spark plugs for Samara, Bosch products were in first place as well as in 26th among 27 participants … But Robert Bosch said that “it is better to lose money than customer confidence”.

- In general, we use the same quality standards around the world. Of course, we will conduct a thorough check and, if necessary, will immediately take care of improving the situation. But here you can not remain silent about possible fakes. For example, in India, where Bosch is powerfully represented, three times as many candles are sold on the market as we produce there!

- And in China?

- There are also a lot of fakes. The protection of the brand and copyright is an important topic, and we are working in this direction.

- In our market, security systems have not yet become a mass phenomenon. Meanwhile, the Russians are also Europeans and would like to have more arguments in their favor from Bosch.

- Since the advent of ABS in 1978, the cost of this system has fallen tenfold. Is this not an argument to enter the markets with a low purchasing power of the population? In addition, if the consumer can evaluate the ABS, he will be ready to invest in it, and not on an expensive radio.

- A decree has been issued in Russia that encourages the opening of assembly plants and allows duty-free import of components for them. In the near future, according to my calculations, about 800, 000 foreign cars will be produced in Russia - these are Renault, Ford, as well as Volkswagen and Koreans. And AvtoVAZ will produce the same amount. Is this really not enough to make it profitable for Bosch to build factories with us? Or will we wait for the Chinese to supply Russia with spare parts?

- Of course, this is an impressive figure, and Russia is an interesting market in terms of local needs. But, on the other hand, our scale is much larger than that of the automaker. For example, we produce 18 million ABS and ESPs worldwide, and we are interested not only in the volume of needs of the local market, but also in this case the possibility of exporting our products from Russia, as well as importing missing products. Then competitiveness is born! If customs levels are high, and all components are produced in the country, we will not receive competitive volumes.

- And what is your turnover?

- Approximately 150 thousand employees of automotive equipment departments provided in 2005 sales of about 26 billion euros.

- And what is the share of Russia?

- Unfortunately, it is still insignificant. The turnover of 80–90 million euros is accounted for 1, 200 employees in Russia. These are deliveries to the conveyor, and if you take everything, 200 million euros.

“Why are you always experimenting with Mercedes?”

- We are an independent manufacturer. Some of our competitors have up to 50% of turnover with one automaker, while in our country this figure does not exceed 10%. For example, active steering was created at a joint venture specifically for the BMW Five, and the Common Rail - specifically for the Audi diesel. And with Daimler-Chrysler there are developments of important innovations, such as night vision night vision system for the new S-class. But the development of innovations is becoming more expensive and therefore it is not surprising that they begin their life in high-class cars.

- In Japan, Honda recently showed us a car that moves along the lane chosen by the driver, that is, keeps its course. I recently drove a Mercedes, which keeps its distance and brakes itself. Is it realistic today to imagine that in the near future the driver will be able to turn on the autopilot and take a nap?

- The immediate goal is not to remove the driver from control, but to unload him, to remove excessive voltage. A person is still smarter than any electronic system, and he will remain central to driving. But if, for example, we warn the driver with a short brake impulse (we will produce such a system next year) and make him react to the emergency situation at least half a second earlier, then 60% of accidents can be avoided! In this direction we are moving. In principle, it is already possible today to apply emergency automatic braking to a complete stop, but we do not yet have absolute confidence in the sensors. While they are right at 99% - we need one hundred percent reliability!

- Does such an energetic person like you have any special ideas - if you dream up?

- Our business itself is very impressive - the supply of automakers today is subject to globalization, markets are growing, we are very busy with these problems.

- And if you get away from technology?

- In private life? Take your trip around the world on your yacht!

- What is the diesel engine on it?

- A very small diesel - and a very large windage!

- By the way, what will win in the future - a gasoline engine or a diesel engine?

- Both! I always say that the diesel engine has changed a lot in recent years - it has become “clean”, its torque has increased. But if you look at the next stage of development of a gasoline engine through the prism of direct injection and a turbocharger, then it is experiencing a renaissance. Consequently, gasoline and diesel engines will be components of hybrid plants. And in the field of fuel, gas use will increase - especially in countries such as Russia or Iran. Synthetic fuel will also be used.

- In Russia, the abundance of minerals and at the same time - a lag in fuel production. Where does the initiative come from for something to change?

“I see two ways here.” The first is the technique, that is, when the need for good fuel is determined by the presence of cars that need it. From the standpoint of environmental protection, laws should regulate the situation - this is the second way. Clean fuel is the prerogative of the government. You have just signed the law on the introduction of Euro II - this already imposes certain obligations on both car manufacturers and fuel producers.

- Robert Bosch was one of the first to introduce an eight-hour work day. How much do you personally work?

“In any case, more than eight hours!” At eight in the morning I come to work, and about eight in the evening I leave. But, I think, Robert Bosch himself worked more than eight hours a day.

- Having received a case of your nozzle for a fuel pump at the factory as a gift, the headline for the interview came to my mind: "Bosch with an accuracy of 0.5 microns."

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