Earlier this month, Bosch held its annual press conference in Germany to discuss the state of the company’s business. Yesterday (4/29/2010), at a press event in Chicago, Odd Joergenrud, regional president, Automotive Aftermarket, North America, Robert Bosch LLC, shared some of the key points from the annual conference and talked about Bosch’s commitment to providing innovative, high-quality products to aftermarket customers.
What is the current state of Bosch’s global business?
Last year’s global economic crisis affected the business development of the Bosch Group and overall our sales fell by 15 percent. The Bosch Group has made a good start to the current fiscal year, and intends to make up for much of the loss of sales in 2009 this year. At the annual press conference, Franz Fehrenbach, chairman of the Bosch board of management, said: “We want to return to a positive result in 2010.” There were clear signs of recovery in all regions, he said. Mr. Fehrenbach did, however, warn that recovery should not be “taken for granted.”
In the first quarter of this year, Bosch Group sales were up roughly 25 percent year-over-year. But the first quarter of 2009 was also the lowest point of that crisis year, so current sales are still significantly below their 2007 level. All in all, sales in the current fiscal year are expected to grow by more than 10 percent. Due to increased demand for vehicles, especially outside Europe, automotive technology will make the greatest contribution to this growth.
How was the Bosch automotive aftermarket business affected by the 2009 global business crisis?
The Bosch automotive aftermarket business did not fully escape the global financial crisis. Bosch OES channel business was negatively affected. However, Bosch independent aftermarket business had a reasonably stable year, experiencing growth throughout 2009 for North America. We have seen substantial strengthening over the first quarter.
Bosch has a long tradition of investment in research and development. Why is this so important to the company?
Bosch is firmly committed to providing the high-quality, innovative products required to meet the demands of its customers. These high-performance, safe and eco-friendly products often require a long development process involving multiple patents. Going back to our founder, Bosch believes that quality is the most important asset we have to offer to our customers and we spare no time or expense to ensure that we deliver just that. Quality, safety and environmental responsibility are what [the Bosch tagline] “Invented for life” is all about.
What is the company’s current level of investment in research and development?
At the annual press conference, Bosch announced that, even in this challenging economic environment, we have upheld our commitments and, during 2009, invested $5 billion in R&D. At Bosch, we believe strongly that by dedicating 33,000 associates globally to R&D and obtaining patent protection for our innovations e.g., some 3,800 applications filed in 2009 alone, an average of 15 per working day we continue to build value in the market for our customers and end-consumers. This is important to the entire Bosch organization, including us in the Automotive Aftermarket business.
How does Bosch protect its interests and its investment in R&D?
It is of utmost importance to us at Bosch that we protect our products and intellectual property rights including our vital patent rights. Bosch for example has a portfolio of 200 patents on “beam” or “bracketless” wiper blade technology. Earlier this month in a patent infringement suit pertaining to beam type wiper blades brought by Bosch against Pylon Manufacturing Corp., a jury found that Pylon’s wiper blades, which are acquired from third party manufacturers Unipoint and Chin Pech, infringed Bosch’s patent rights. Also, in March, we filed a patent infringement suit against Old World Industries.
We will continue to pursue action against other infringers in order to protect our interest, our business, and our patents in the automotive aftermarket. We are compelled to take these actions to ensure our ability to reinvest in our products and, therefore, deliver the highest quality and most innovative products to our customer and to consumers.
Would you give us more details pertaining to the technology of Bosch’s bracketless blades? Specifically, what are some examples of recent Bosch innovation?
Bosch was the first company to successfully commercialize a bracketless or beam type wiper blade as it is known throughout the world today. We first introduced it at Automechanika in Frankfurt, Germany, in September 1999. Bosch’s beam blades went on to receive critical acclaim by winning the Automotive News PACE award and the Automechanika award for innovation in 2002, and the Frost & Sullivan award for innovation in 2008 under the Bosch ICON brand.
The Bosch beam blade, with a dual steel spring and flexible rubber wind spoiler, offered significantly improved wiper blade performance and represented substantial change at all levels of the wiper blade market. Bosch added advanced dual rubber solutions, which increased both wiping performance and durability.
Patented multi-adapter solutions have also been added to both increase vehicle application coverage and provide consumers and installers with a more user friendly installation experience.
Why is it important to Bosch and to its aftermarket business to protect its products and intellectual property rights?
We value our relationship with our aftermarket customers and appreciate the opportunity to work together to grow and strengthen our respective businesses. As the world’s original equipment and innovation leader, we are committed to providing our customers with the innovative aftermarket products and services they require to serve their customers. We believe by bringing these values to the market, we strengthen all of our markets and we look forward to continuing to invest in this future growth for the aftermarket. That’s why Bosch is an enthusiastic supporter of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association “Know Your Parts” initiative. Together, all quality brand-name part suppliers are working to get the message out to our customers that true value cannot be measured by price alone. It is a function of price and quality that will advance the aftermarket and deliver safe and reliable products to today’s motorists.