This is an exclusive article from the 2017 edition of Mexico Automotive Review. If you want to get all the information, plus other relevant insights regarding the Mexican automotive industry, get your copy of Mexico Automotive Review or check out the digital version of the publication.
Article based on an exclusive interview with René Schlegel, President of Robert Bosch México.
Q: How are you reacting to changes in the automotive industry and new trends favoring mobility alternatives?
A: The idea that the car industry is changing is wrong. What is evolving is the transport and mobility industry; the automotive industry is an important part of that. Companies that cannot identify this wider framework are doomed to stagnate or even disappear. The car is just a means to an end, to transport people and goods from one place to another. The real concern facing the industry is how to improve mobility by transforming existing solutions or by developing new ones. Companies must identify client needs and react to them, offering the fastest, convenient and most cost-efficient solution that damages the environment the least. We want to provide important input to drive such solutions.
Q: How is Bosch working to develop cleaner and environmentally friendly solutions for its clients?
A: Developing cleaner products has been one of our core values since the company was created. Bosch strives for safer, cleaner and more comfortable solutions across all the industries we serve. These three factors are driving innovation in the mobility sector too and we assign considerable resources to develop technology around them. We spend approximately 10 percent of our turnover on R&D activities, which amounts to nearly US$10 billion per year.
Q: What opportunities do you see for Bosch in alternative powertrain applications?
A: There has been tremendous progress in electrification and how energy is being produced. But getting your energy from a plug does not mean using clean power. There are still challenges the industry must address including making electrical energy storage and charging more efficient, lighter, faster and cheaper. But the fact that these challenges exist represents a great opportunity for the industry to meet considerably more challenging standards. There are plenty of energy alternatives the industry could embrace, used individually or in combination. Some players are still interested in hydrogen. Chemically, this substance is one of the simplest molecules available in abundance, which is precisely what makes it interesting. But we don’t think there is just one solution. Gasoline, natural gas and electric engines all have their merits. We must only consider issues such as effectivity, efficiency, availability and ease of distribution to determine how best we can apply each of these alternatives to transport people or cargo. We still see great potential for the internal combustion engine too, mainly because of the energy density in carbon-based fuels. Further improvements in terms of efficiency and cleanliness for this type of powertrain remain promising options for many applications.
Q: How has Bosch’s R&D initiative in Guadalajara evolved and what has been your experience concerning Mexican talent?
A: The project has been a success although it was not easy at the beginning. The center in Guadalajara is heavily oriented toward development, which is still not common in Mexico, and we had a hard time selling the idea internally in the beginning. We developed the project in collaboration with Bosch India starting with 11 people in 2014. Today, we have 280 engineers working at the site and we have proven that there are very skilled and talented people in the country, capable of delivering projects on time, on cost and on spec. Our employees in Guadalajara come from different STEM backgrounds (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), creating an interdisciplinary environment that fosters innovation. Our demand for R&D projects in Mexico is now booming, both from internal and external customers domestically and internationally.