The industry's technological revolution will affect the interior of the vehicle as much as its mechanical features and performance. Autonomous driving and connectivity will add sensors and instruments, freeing the driver and occupants to perform other activities. Spain’s Grupo Antolin is one of the leading suppliers of interior equipment to automakers with revenue of 5 billion euros in 2017 – enough for a place in the top 50 in the latest Automotive News Europe global ranking – and more than 150 plants worldwide. CEO Jesus Pascual talked about Grupo Antolin's strategy and the short-term challenges with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Andrea Malan.
How does Grupo Antolin plan to leverage the industry's big trends, from connectivity to autonomous driving?
The changes underway will bring a lot of opportunities for our interiors business. Future cars will have a lot of cameras and sensors. We believe we can introduce and connect all these parts in our products. We call ourselves a "smart integrator," and we believe this is the future of the industry. We are having lots of cooperation with electronics suppliers, as we believe every component must be integrated and not simply added — for example, to the cockpit. We are currently running 53 projects. That mainly affects cockpits and door panels. While as far as headliners are concerned, we are working on the lighting consoles. We believe the lighting console will become an electronic part with microphones and cameras.
How will interiors change with the move to self-driving?
When it comes to self-driving cars, we see a change mainly in the interior-lighting business, which will become more integrated and functional. One example is lights that will have to alert occupants in case of danger.
Does Grupo Antolin supply complete cockpits or just parts?
It depends on the strategy of the customer. We produce whole cockpits for Jaguar in Europe and also for General Motors and Chrysler in the United States. For BMW, we produce parts that they integrate in the cockpits in their plants.
How much work does Grupo Antolin do to develop new products? Do you have a role in design?
Yes. For example, we have a new program with Jaguar where we actively participate in design. Some subparts come from the customer, but we have to integrate them in the design of the cockpit because of safety reasons. We have more than 400 engineers, and in Germany we have a department specifically working on instrument panels and cockpits.
How much does Grupo Antolin invest as a percentage of sales?
This year we are investing 360 million euros, which is a bit more than 7 percent of sales. In the years between 2017 and 2019, we will invest more than 900 million, which is approximately 6 percent of our sales. Our target for the coming years is to invest 6 percent of sales.
What are you investing in?
We are building new plants in China, the U.S. and Mexico. In addition, every year we need to renew our product portfolio.