Auto industry veteran Sujit Jain is adopting some new work habits these days. It seems one of Jain's new customers wants him to work a little faster.
"I've been in this business for 30 years," the president of powertrain solutions for passenger cars and electric vehicles for Bosch USA says with some amusement. "I've worked successfully with most of the world's traditional OEMs. But I'm seeing a change right before my eyes. "The new startups of the world want you to work faster, move faster, make decisions faster and deliver solutions faster."
Bosch, the world's largest supplier of parts to automakers, with 2017 sales of $47.5 billion, is engaged in a project with Byton, a little-known Chinese electric vehicle startup formed by a trio of Chinese billionaires through a venture called Future Mobility.
Byton itself is attempting to do things in new ways — for starters, going from idea to market with a new brand and new passenger vehicle in just three years. But what might be the most significant departure from industry tradition is what Byton is doing with Bosch: Byton has contracted with Bosch to create its entire electric powertrain for its vehicle.
That is radical thinking in an industry where engines, horsepower, engine blocks and engine sounds have long been the carefully guarded trademarks of the brands that use them.
But Byton isn't hung up about all that history. And so it has retained a global supplier to figure out how to make its vehicles move.
'We could have done the powertrain development in house," said Dirk Abendroth, one of the architects of Byton's vehicle as the startup's vice president for autonomous driving and powertrain. "But is that really necessary to differentiate the vehicle? We decided that the powertrain was not the chief factor in positioning our company.
"Don't get me wrong," he clarifies. "Powertrains are and always will be a significant portion of a customer's perception. And the breakdown of an engine is still the ultimate disaster for a vehicle owner. But in the new world of electric vehicles, the powertrain will not be the differentiating attribute."