Webasto broadens footprint in Asia

Construction of additional production capacity for roofs in India and Japan and for battery systems in South Korea

To meet the growing demand for automotive roof and battery systems in Asia-Pacific, Webasto has expanded its capabilities in the region in recent months. “South Korea, India and Japan are dynamic growth markets with great potential for both our core businesses and our electromobility solutions. As a basic principle, we produce in the market for the market, so given the need for our products in these countries, it quickly became clear that we would strengthen our local presence. Expanding our presence in Asia beyond China, our largest single market to date, is a strategically important decision for Webasto’s future,” explains Dr. Holger Engelmann, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Webasto SE.

In total, the global system partner of the automotive industry is investing more than EUR 130 million in Asian locations. In Pune, southeast of the Indian metropolis of Mumbai, Webasto built a larger local production site for roof systems because the original buildings had become too small. On the site of its factory in Hiroshima (Japan), where roofs have been manufactured for the Japanese market since the late 1970s, Webasto is expanding with a second factory building. In addition, a state-of-the-art new factory for the production of batteries for fully electric passenger cars was built within a year south of Seoul in Dangjin (South Korea). In May, Webasto employees, government representatives, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers from the respective economic areas together celebrated the opening of the two new locations in Pune and Dangjin, as well as the annex in Hiroshima. Series production in all three plants has already started successfully.

Driving with an opening roof is a trend in India

In recent years, the sunroof has become a very popular vehicle equipment in India and the demand is steadily increasing. International automakers with Indian subsidiaries and local OEMs are increasingly looking for partners to produce public roof systems in the country. Webasto has been in the Indian market for about ten years and has so far supplied smaller volumes of roofs from its former site in Pune and from a factory in South Korea to India.

After receiving several large orders, the company decided to build a new, significantly larger factory ten kilometers from its previous location. In early January 2021, the groundbreaking ceremony took place for the 18,000 square meter site in Phulgaon (Pune). In addition to a production capacity for 400,000 roofs per year, the building also houses a validation room. Here, among other things, the quality and functionality of roof systems are tested under extreme climatic conditions.

Due to the high demand, a second factory is already planned on the coast in the southwest of the country for the production of roof systems for the Indian market. In order to better adapt its products to the future market demands in the region, Webasto has also set up a development team in Pune in recent months. In total, Webasto will invest approximately EUR 40 million in India by 2025.

Further growth expected in Japan

Webasto has been active in the Japanese market since the late 1970s. In 1990, the company started producing roof systems for almost all well-known Japanese car manufacturers in Hiroshima. Thanks to the good development of the activities in Japan, Webasto already expanded its factory to 12,500 square meters in 2016 at a cost of more than six million euros. Hiroshima was for many years the location where Webasto produced the largest number of roof systems in the entire Group.

Only five years later, it became clear that the first expansion of the site would not be enough to meet future demand, especially for large panoramic roofs. Webasto therefore invested another seven million euros in an extension building on the same site. The new two-storey building has a floor area of ​​3,700 square meters and will expand the production capacity for roof systems at the main factory to more than 1.3 million per year. In addition, the expanded site offers sufficient space and technical infrastructure to equip vehicles for the Japanese market with electromobility solutions from Webasto in the future.

High-tech battery factory in South Korea

After Webasto was contracted by Hyundai-Kia to supply battery systems for several all-electric models of large passenger cars, a highly automated battery factory was built in Dangjin within a year. The new site is 22,000 square meters and is modeled after the battery production blueprint in Schierling (Germany), which started in 2019. Up to 110,000 battery modules can be produced annually in Dangjin. An expansion to a capacity of 160,000 units is planned by 2025. In total, Webasto is investing approximately 88 million euros in this location.

The opening of Dangjin is a milestone for the development of Webasto’s electromobility business. The company has been manufacturing and selling roofing systems in South Korea since the late 1980s, initially together with a joint venture partner. With the acquisition of all shares in the joint venture in 2019, Webasto Korea became part of the Group’s global development and manufacturing network. Since then, Webasto has been able to provide its South Korean customers with a holistic portfolio that has been expanded to include electromobility solutions.

Focusing on other markets in Southeast Asia

“With the new locations and the expanded factory, Webasto is now much more broadly positioned in Asia than before. In India, Japan and South Korea, we expect double-digit growth and a rapid return on investment in the coming years,” said Chairman Engelmann, adding: “In addition, our roof systems are also available in South East Asia. We are currently looking at setting up an additional production site for this region in Thailand or Indonesia.”

SOURCE: Webasto

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