Rubber & Plastics News compiled its 10 biggest stories from 2018, and we counted them down in our Dec. 10 print issue. We'll be running them online each workday until the end of the year.
2. Race to autonomy
Mobility has become the new buzzword within the automotive industry.
That's because everyone from Detroit to Silicon Valley is chasing the elusive self-driving vehicle. And the first step to that future is the electric engine.
Whether or not it succeeds doesn't change the effect these technologies have had on the industry. Big-time suppliers are re-evaluating their businesses to align with original equipment manufacturers who are betting billions on this technology.
Continental A.G. is changing its business structure to address these moves, intending to reorganize into a holding company by 2020 that consists of three business sectors—rubber, automotive and powertrain. The firm also intends to set up the powertrain business as an independent, publicly held company.
Its current tire unit, to be renamed "Tire Technologies," and ContiTech A.G. non-tire rubber parts unit will retain their independent organizational structures, and both will report their financials under the rubber sector. Its current Chassis & Safety and Interior divisions will be renamed and reorganized under the Automotive group sector.
Dana Inc. attempted to merge with GKN P.L.C.'s Driveline Division in a move that would have reshaped the auto supplier and better positioned it for electric platforms. And even though it lost out to Melrose Industries P.L.C.'s rival bid, it did execute three other deals—bringing its total to six in the last three years—to better position it to serve emerging vehicle technologies.
Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has been quite open about electric vehicles' threat to its business—its CEO estimates the company could lose 70 percent of its automotive business if it doesn't adapt, prompting it to acquire two companies with expertise in fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries. The firm combined the acquired companies with its existing expertise to form the Battery and Fuel Cell Division, a unit tasked with pursuing E-mobility and fuel cell opportunities in the commercial truck and bus, marine and energy industries, among others.
These are just a few of the moves suppliers made. While it won't be clear whether they pan out for some time, the reality of electrified and autonomous vehicles is closing in and most of the industry is making sure it's prepared.