REUTLINGEN, Germany -- In March 2010, Robert Bosch GmbH spent 600 million euros, or about $816 million, to expand a factory here for fabricating integrated circuits and related parts. It was the largest single investment in Bosch history.
That investment, and the company's related spending on electronics r&d, is paying off. In 2010, Bosch's global parts sales to automakers, including those from the expanded factory, jumped 35 percent, making it again No. 1 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers.
In 2010, as the top 100 global suppliers bounced back from the recession, 96 posted higher sales to automakers and 85 posted double-digit percentage gains. Spending on r&d is more difficult to measure because of differences in how it is counted, but a sample of major companies shows that it also has rebounded.
The increased complexity of vehicles gives suppliers an opportunity to stand out through innovation if they spend on r&d.
Take Eaton Corp., which makes engine valves, superchargers and other powertrain-related parts. Chairman Alexander Cutler has set a goal for each division to grow 50 percent faster than its market each year. Ken Davis, president of Eaton's Vehicle Group, says that means targeting the r&d budget to high-growth technologies: "We're thinking how we can spend that money to outgrow our markets."