STUTTGART - Europe's largest automotive component supplier more than tripled its profits in 1997, after several disappointing years.
'We have left the slow growth rates of the early 1990s behind us,' said Bosch Finance Director Claus Dieter Hoffmann.
Sales in the automotive equipment division grew 17.7 percent to DM28.7 billion ($16.2 billion) compared with 1996. Sales of the group as a whole were up 14 percent to DM46.9 billion.
Net profit rose to DM1.7 billion from DM500 million the year before. Profits were reduced by the cost of restructuring the French brakes operations Bosch acquired from AlliedSignal in 1996.
Bosch aims to pass DM50 billion in sales this year.
Several key technologies will support the company's growth, says Bosch:
The popularity of ABS is still rising, even in North America.
Bosch expects its Electronic Stability Program to spread to mid-market cars in the near future. The company made 50,000 units last year, mainly for upscale Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi models. Bosch plans to make several hundred thousand ESP units this year and about one million in 1999.
The German market for navigation systems is expected to double this year to 180,000 units.
Bosch reports strong demand for its common-rail fuel injection system in western Europe. The company will invest DM320 million at its Reutlingen and Rodez plants to develop new injection products.
One problem area is Bosch's in-car entertainment business Blau-punkt. The subsidiary's management is being restructured to be more responsive to the market, said Bosch Chairman Hermann Scholl. Blaupunkt has plants in Germany, Portugal and Malaysia.
Bosch also expects to suffer from the economic crisis in Southeast Asia. In April the group predicted sales would be cut by DM600 million. The outlook has deteriorated since then.
Scholl welcomed the Daimler-Chrysler merger.
He said that technical co-operation between the Daimler-Benz and Chrysler light-vehicle operations would bring Bosch extra business. Last year, Bosch sold only a third as much to Chrysler as it sold to Daimler-Benz.