“We can offer customers just the right thing”
InCar®plus is a future-oriented total package for the automotive industry. Oliver Hoffmann of Steel Europe and Alexander Gulden of Components Technology talk about the results of three years of intense development work.
Dr. Gulden, what is the group-wide InCar®plus research project about?
Gulden: The entire automotive expertise of thyssenkrupp is brought together in this project. It shows what we are capable of when we work together across business areas on innovations – from development to presentation to customers.
Mr. Hoffmann, what are the differences between this project and the previous InCar®?
Hoffmann: The basic idea is the same: to offer customers innovative, helpful solutions. Mostly by providing alternatives – that is, more options from which to select. The “plus” indicates that time has not stood still. The customer requirements that have continued to develop in recent years are what we addressed in this project.
What are these?
Hoffmann: Now, for example, more higher strength steels are used in vehicle bodies than just a few years ago. We have integrated new findings from consumer tests and picked up on the strengthening trend toward electric mobility.
Gulden: And our timing is just right for electric mobility solutions. The first vehicles are on the market and emissions regulations are becoming stricter all over the world. We expect that the mix of drive types will increase – that is, various drive types such as combustion engines, hybrid drives and electrically powered vehicles. InCar®plus provides solutions that move our customers forward here.
What do you do differently than the competition?
Gulden: Our constellation is particularly unique. Whether it’s materials, components, tools or production technologies: we have all types of expertise under one roof. From a completely pragmatic perspective: shorter distances and the ability to simply try out developments of new material qualities and types or hybrid materials just because we can. That makes us quicker and the products more mature overall which, in turn, ensures that they are ready for customer application.
Hoffmann: Due to our wide variety of automotive expertise, as a company we have criteria that clearly differentiate us from the other competitors. I am not familiar with any conceptual study that is so broadly set up with such a deep foundation as InCar®plus: from suspension and steering technologies and the optimization of combustion engines as well as the development of vehicle body parts and seat structures to electric drives.
Are these types of large projects implemented across many areas a model for the future?
Gulden: Absolutely. An overarching program like this helps enormously at a customer presentation. For example, my Components Technology area consists of many different business areas, none of which is particularly small – dampers, steering, camshafts, etc. – but no individual company could achieve the effect among automotive manufacturers that is possible with InCar®plus.
Hoffmann: Moreover, InCar®plus enjoys high visibility within the group. The members of our Executive Board, above all, Mr. Hiesinger, are intensely occupied with this subject. This is advantageous because, in turn, managers at companies with whom we are speaking and doing business also hear about it. This is an important initial step for us and for the success of the project. In the end, of course, we do have to convince the specialists.
When will an InCar®plus solution really be seen on the road, then?
Gulden: That depends. This time – unlike with InCar® – we have made sure to present innovations that can already be implemented in the new generation of vehicles, such as electric steering systems. But we are also working with subjects that are more future-oriented.
Hoffmann: Many solutions are ensured to the extent that we can apply them for any customer. However, some time is still needed before actual customer implementation. Don’t forget that the approval process for a new material or technology can take a few years, even on the customer’s side.