Auria Solutions was formed in 2017 as a joint venture between interior specialists IAC Group and China's Shanghai Shenda to supply fiber-based soft trim and noise suppression solutions. Already the No. 2 player in its segment after Autoneum, according to Auria's figures, the supplier in February opened a new plant in Vrable, Slovakia, which is about 20 km east of key customer Jaguar Land Rover's factory in Nitra. CEO Brian Pour, an American, was previously IAC's chief operating officer. He spoke with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Nick Gibbs about current industry trends and explained why the company focuses on premium automakers.
Europe accounts for 45 percent of Auria's revenue. What percentage of that comes from premium automakers?
The majority. It has been a good position for us. We have some of the best NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and materials people in the industry who help keep us ahead of our competition. At the same time, the premium segment is less dramatically impacted by economic fluctuation.
What are they asking you to focus on?
The big push is the move to autonomous, connectivity and electrification. With that comes a very different portfolio of products. For electrification it's the ability to drive down internal noise, reduce weight and also maintain battery temperatures. With our fiber-based products, thermal management becomes very important. For mobility we are aggressively working on flooring that addresses the need for durability in rideshare applications. As we get to autonomous, automakers want the interior to be more like a living room, so you will see many of the concepts with what looks like a hardwood floor or even a tile floor. We have developed a product that we are able to weave a printable screen onto the fiber-based construction.
How are you reducing weight?
Look at the flooring of a JLR, Mercedes or BMW vehicle and the carpet looks like fiber, but if you flip it over there is a heavy layer that is referred to as a mass back. It's a well-engineered acoustic solution but is very heavy. We're taking that heavy layer away and converting it to a fiber application that doesn't allow noise to pass through.
Do you expect to have proportionally more product in an EV? Will it be big revenue generator?
We completed an extensive NVH study on EVs in the market and we found a number of areas where we could help our customers, because of the different sources and types of noise. It actually drove our price per-vehicle point about 15 percent to 18 percent higher and that was just on pure volume, not on the cost of the product.
Is that playing out?
Yes, as we work on these EV platforms we are seeing a lot more of the things we saw in our benchmarked study.
IAC grew through acquisition. You say your market is fragmented. Will Auria grow the same way?
With the global market the way it is and the EU significantly softening, our approach is to sit back and watch. Adding capacity in an over-capacity industry is certainly not our plan. Yes, we are adding capacity at our new plant in Vrable, but we are adding it to support our customer, Jaguar Land Rover, in Nitra. Our strategy focus in Europe is on product portfolio expansion and vertical integration.
Is Vrable just for JLR?
It's not the first time I have followed JLR. When they first went to China, I put in two facilities while at IAC to support them. Given the size of the components we make, they need to be relatively close for just-in-time sequencing. It was a strategic investment to support a key automaker, but we do have other customers in the region.
You are supplying the Land Rover Discovery. What other JLR vehicles will be supplied by Vrable?
We have a contract for a second vehicle that they will be bringing [believed to be the Land Rover Defender. Pour declined to confirm].
JLR has announced deep cost cuts. Does that affect Auria?
As with all customers, productivity requirements are discussed and negotiated every year. How far they are going to push cost saving into the supply base in addition to their own savings is yet to be seen.
You have two plants supplying JLR, among others, in the UK. Have you had to lay off staff as their production falls?
We have reduced our workforce in the UK, but the majority of that was a result of movement of the Discovery to Slovakia. We are continuing to watch where the volumes go.