Supplier sector churns even as rankings stay stable

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The world’s biggest auto parts makers in Automotive News‘ 2018 top suppliers ranking might look largely unchanged from year to year.

The combined revenue of the 10 largest companies rose to $ 315.44 billion last year — a respectable if modest gain of just under 8 percent from a year earlier.

But below the surface, it’s a different story.

2019 supplier list

To be considered for Automotive News’ 2019 top suppliers list, submit the following information by Dec. 31 to mraetz@crain.com.

  • Company name and address
  • Contact name, title, phone number and email address
  • A survey will be emailed to the contact in March.

Technologies, strategies and boardroom drama have roiled the supplier segment over the last year. Acquisitions and spinoffs have changed the identities — and even the names — of several companies, while suppliers globally peer into the auto industry’s not-too-distant future to rethink what role they might play and what parts technologies they will need to obtain to play it.

Here are just some of the behind-the-scenes changes that have churned the industry in recent months.

Robert Bosch (No. 1): The world’s largest parts supplier launched a center for artificial intelligence last year to dive into AI skills. At the same, it consolidated its traditional powertrain units, exited the generator and starter motor businesses and declared its interest in becoming a “connected mobility services” supplier.

Lear Corp. (No. 8): Lear is moving deeper into advanced electronics through acquisitions of companies such as Israeli GPS developer EXO Technologies. Lear’s quest is to elevate its long-standing core business of seats into smart systems that can anticipate traffic conditions and personalize the cabin space of future vehicles.

Top 10 global suppliers

As ranked by 2017 original-equipment parts sales to automakers worldwide
Supplier (2016 rank) Sales in billions
1. Robert Bosch (1) $ 47.50✝
2. Denso (4) $ 40.78*✝
3. Magna (3) $ 38.95
4. Continental (5) $ 35.91
5. ZF Friedrichshafen (2) $ 34.48
6. Aisin Seiki (6) $ 33.84
7. Hyundai Mobis (7) $ 24.98
8. Lear (9) $ 20.47
9. Valeo (10) $ 19.36
10. Faurecia (8) $ 19.17
✝Fiscal year *Estimate
Source: Automotive News Data Center

Adient (No. 11): The spun-off seat business of Johnson Controls, Adient intends to zero in on seating, separating itself from the distractions of interiors and JCI’s other historic automotive mainstay, batteries. The seat maker now has launched Adient Aerospace, a joint venture with Boeing to develop and produce airplane seats in Kaiserslautern, Germany, in pursuit of a new market estimated to be worth $ 6 billion by 2026.

Yanfeng (No. 16): China’s Yanfeng is moving fast in North America and Europe. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Huayu Automotive Systems Co., which is the component group of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., and has grown rapidly in the U.S. in recent years through its Yanfeng Automotive Interiors unit. That operation was formed as a joint venture with Adient three years ago. At the time, Yanfeng envisioned revenue reaching $ 10 billion. Although U.S. sales declined slightly, the company closed 2017 with global sales of more than $ 14 billion.

Toyota Boshoku Corp. (No. 17): Toyota Boshoku is following a business plan that calls for advanced products and increased r&d through 2030. Last year, the company unveiled a patented high-impact-resistant plastic that it expects to yield new interior and exterior components, as well as surfaces for consumer goods, such as luggage. Other futuristic ideas were contained in its recent concept car, Moox. Among them: vehicle windows that can change colors to display a driver’s mood.

Top N.A. suppliers

As ranked by 2017 original-equipment parts sales to automakers in N. America
Supplier (2016 rank) Sales in billions
1. Magna (1) $ 21.03
2. ZF (2) $ 9.31
3. Denso (4) $ 9.307*✝
4. Continental (5) $ 8.98
5. Lear (7) $ 7.78
6. Robert Bosch (3) $ 7.60✝
7. Flex-N-Gate (10) $ 6.04
8. Aisin (11) $ 5.65
9. Adient (6) $ 5.02
10. American Axle (20) $ 5.01
*Estimate ✝Fiscal year
Source: Automotive News Data Center

JTEKT Corp. (No. 18): The normally low-profile Japanese steering and bearings supplier JTEKT found itself making significant changes last year. It acquired Indian supplier Sona Koyo Steering Systems and then initiated a takeover of steering column supplier Fuji Kiko Co. JTEKT, which has multiple operations in North America, also opened a plant in Morocco in a bid to boost volumes in North Africa and Europe.

Thyssenkrupp (No. 19): Things have been touchy lately at the diverse German steel and structural components supplier Thyssenkrupp. A proposed multibillion-dollar deal to combine its European steel operations with Tata Steel has ignited criticism from both its labor union and stock activists who are clamoring for management changes.

Aptiv (No. 21): Delphi Automotive once made parts ranging from spark plugs to seat belts. Aptiv, the recently renamed operations of Delphi — minus the spun-off business of Delphi Technologies — is busily carving out a new strategy. Last year, it spent $ 400 million to acquire nuTonomy, a Boston developer of autonomous vehicle software. It now has put a fleet of self-driving cars into Lyft’s service in Las Vegas, with an eye to expand the program to other cities.

Magneti Marelli (No. 28): Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has floated the idea of selling global components business Magneti Marelli for the last six years. Marchionne now confirms that the profitable lighting and engine parts supplier is on the block, for at least $ 3.3 billion. A number of suitors in Asia, Europe and North America reportedly are interested.

Calsonic Kansei Corp. (No. 29): Nissan Motor Co.’s desire to step up funding for its development of advanced mobility solutions, including work on autonomous-driving vehicles, led it to cash out of its long-standing keiretsu supplier, interiors and air conditioning producer Calsonic Kansei. Last year, KKR & Co. completed its $ 4.5 billion acquisition of the supplier, which came with 78 plants and 20,000 employees around the world.

GKN (No. 31): Last year saw the fruits of r&d pay off at the U.K.’s GKN, as its eDrive division posted bigger-than-expected sales growth for its advanced electric driveline technology. But boardroom drama overshadowed it. GKN’s plan to spin off its aerospace business brought takeover interests from the London equity firm Melrose Industries. This year, a fight over control erupted, with GKN at one point nearly being acquired by U.S.-based Dana Corp. In the end, Melrose succeeded with a bid of $ 11 billion.

American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. (No. 40): CEO David Dauch took his share of heat from Wall Street over the acquisition of Metaldyne Performance Group Inc. last year. Critics warned that the market was at its peak and the $ 1.6 billion deal was overpriced. But Dauch closed the year with a zoom in global parts sales, higher earnings and a welcome diversification of American Axle’s global customer base.

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