SOMMER ALLIBERT Industrie chief executive Jean-Michel Elter expects sales to double to FF20 billion ($6.6 billion) within five years.
Growing demand for cockpit and door modules will fuel growth for the automotive division of the French plastics group, he said. Cockpits and door panels made up two thirds of the division's sales in 1997.
Elter, 50, has been chief executive of Sommer Allibert Industrie since 1991. He joined Sommer Allibert group in 1982. Elter was interviewed in Paris by Automotive News Europe staff reporter Stephane Farhi.
What is your strategy for modularization?
We are ahead of schedule in applying cockpit and door modules. We started offering solutions to carmakers six years ago. For instance, where to locate telephone sets or airbags. A supplier must become a module architect. It is the main difference between a systems-maker and a module-maker.
We've just got a carmaker's approval for a new door module to equip its models after 2000. We will build several assembly plants for this purpose, both in Europe and in the Americas. We are the first supplier to provide such a complete module.
What is the status of SAS Autosystemtechnik, your joint venture with Siemens for cockpit modules?
SAS had FF500 million ($83 million) in sales in 1997. It will reach FF1 billion in 2000 and FF2 billion in 2002. The joint venture includes assembly plants in Germany (for Volkswagen Polo and Seat Arosa cockpits), Czech Republic (Skoda Octavia cockpits), Belgium (Volvo 70 cockpits), and Argentina (Polo cockpits).
We will soon open a plant in Curitiba, Brazil, for the Audi A3, Golf and Renault Scenic, and next year in Mexico to supply VW. We also have a number of new programs for PSA, Renault and BMW.
Cockpits and door panels made up two thirds of your 1997 sales. But does Sommer Allibert have a critical mass in those businesses?
Sales in cockpits and door panels will explode shortly. Within five years, we expect to reach FF20 billion ($6.6 billion) sales, compared with FF10.5 billion last year. We think the split will be 60 percent in Europe and 40 percent in North and South America. Another growing business is acoustic modules (carpets, sound-proof mats, etc.). They accounted for 13 percent of sales in 1997.