Frank Klein spent the first 27 years of his automotive career at Daimler, where one of his professional highlights was setting up Mercedes-Benz's car factory in Hungary. The investment helped Mercedes to become a major player in the compact car segment. Two years ago, Klein joined Magna Steyr, the contract manufacturing arm of Magna International. He is president of the Austria-based company that produces cars such as the full-electric Jaguar I-Pace, the iconic Mercedes G-Class and will soon add the Fisker Ocean SUV. In addition, Magna Steyr is helping Sony to become an automaker. Klein spoke with Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc.
Did anyone think 10 years ago that Magna Steyr would become one of the industry's most diverse makers of electric cars?
That's a tough question. Based on the strategy the team has put together about 10 years ago, we knew that electric mobility would play a bigger role in the future. What no one could anticipate is the dynamic speed that the shift to electric mobility has taken in the last few years. There are new automakers that entered the market that have really challenged the traditional car manufacturers. Also, people have become more sensitive about the environment, governments are pushing new regulations and we had the diesel scandal. So, if you put everything together, it all had a significant impact on the move toward electric mobility. We are convinced that the future will be electric. Therefore, we are very happy that we were the first contract manufacturer to build a battery-electric vehicle, the Jaguar I-Pace. When you also look at engineering, we have about 4,500 engineers worldwide and about 40 percent to 50 percent of the engineering work we are doing right now is already related to battery-electric vehicles.