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Kiekert: clever innovations and cost-saving solutions for China

Joanne Jiu From Gasgoo.com| May 14 , 2009

Kieker AG, supplier of automobiles locking systems, presents its latest innovations and full product line for side door latches at the 2009 Auto Shanghai. This is Kiekert's debut in the worlds' fastest growing market. Dr. Karl Krause, CEO of Kiekert AG told Gasgoo.com reporter that the company's looking at bringing its clever innovations and cost-saving solutions to China. "Our strategy is not just setting up a low-cost manufacturing base but rather develop the market and be part of the market," he said.

Gasgoo.com: What did Kiekert bring to this year's Shanghai Auto Show?

Kiekert: clever innovations and cost-saving solutions for ChinaDr. Karl Krause: We made our Chinese debut at the Auto Shanghai 2009, for which we unveiled a brand new demo car, a model packed with our innovative ideas including I-close, I-move, I-fold and I-access. This is the first time we have demonstrated Kiekert's latest technologies in China on a demo car which was bought here and adjusted by Kikert's local R&D team.

Let me make some introduction: The i-close is our latest generation of integrated closing assistant for the mid-sized and compact classes. It can ensure the car doors being always completely and securely closed; the i-move is the electrical actuator for all side doors, the user with the flick of a switch can instruct it to close the door by drawing the opened vehicle door onto the car body; the i-fold is a push-button electrical release unit for rear seatbacks; the i-access is a keyless car entry system for drivers, whose benefits in comparison to the system currently available on the market are the significantly reduced system complexity, the elimination of additional assembly effort and lower price.

Besides the demo car, we presented the production latch modules that are supplied to the VW group, PSA, Ford, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and many other global OEMs. We also showcased some entry-level solutions for the low-cost vehicle segment to meet the increasing demand from the emerging markets, for example, the side-door latch for Indian automaker Maruti-Suzuki, which will be put into mass production this year.

Gasgoo.com: What's Kiekert's comparative advantage as there're many other latch-makers in China and abroad?

Dr. Karl Krause: Kiekert is regarded as the leader in the development and manufacture of side-door latches for the auto industry. We are the only multi-national supplier that specializes in latches, retaining a 19 percent market share in the global market-there're only three latch-making suppliers owning more that 10 percent market share and the other two are Japanese players. Our entire endeavor is to achieve perfection of locking technology. Since 1925 when the first automobile side-door latch was innovated, Kiekert has developed and manufactured products for both premium vehicle segments and high-volume vehicle segments. We have over 750 active patents in locking system technology; many of the products and production process have become the industry benchmark. In the non-core areas, we'll search for other leading suppliers to support and collaborate with us. The i-access system is an example--we combine Continental's electronic expertise and Kiekert's experience in the closing systems.

We strive for innovative research and development, and then transform the ideas and inventions into marketable products. We have more than 200 engineers within Kiekert group. The core competence is that we have the world's largest technical team on latch research, testing and development. The products we displayed at Auto Shanghai 2009 could tell you how we turn those functions only for the premium vehicle segment into application to the mass production cars with clever innovations and cost-saving solutions.

Gasgoo.com: As for the emerging markets like China, what ways do you have to reduce cost and meet the local demand?

Dr. Karl Krause: The most direct way is to increase the production volume. Other ways could be like to optimize the manufacturing engineering worldwide. We would bring in lots of value engineering for the whole developing and production process-we have specific engineers who work on this kind of optimization. We'll design and develop special platforms customized for a particular OEM; take our Alpha locking system as an example, with which we integrated Kiekert's entire product innovation portfolio into a single latch platform. Through this type of locking system, future latch developments can be implemented much faster, with improved quality and lower expense. To date, Kiekert has launched five global projects for different customers, resulting in an additional production volume of over 15 million latches on the Alpha platform. We're now carrying out research work on the next-generation platform-the Beta locking system, targeting lower-cost small vehicles (but larger than the Tata Nano); it won't have just locking function but more functions like central-locking. Similarly it also will be flexible for multiple adaptations with initial one-time investment of R&D.

Gasgoo.com: Then what do you think of the Chinese market? Does Kiekert have any plan to introduce such technologies into China?

Dr. Karl Krause: Sure. We have made the first stop of the demo car tour in China, which shows the importance we have placed to the Chinese market. China is the fastest-growing market; we warmly welcome companies that have interest in our technology or products.

Our Changshu plant-in 2008 April, we set up the first wholly owned subsidiary in China and the Chagnshu location will also be our Asia-Pacific headquarters-will be able to develop and manufacture products independently. It will also help advance Kiekert's development in the whole Asian market. In China, our strategy is not just setting up a low-cost manufacturing base but rather develop the market and be part of the market.

At the moment, we supply almost all medium-size cars in China, and we even export to other Asian market to supply Ford cars. But it will be a short time that our products will be applied to all segments and even to local Chinese OEMs. They will make their decision whether to use Kiekert's products-with the European design, global standard of quality and low-cost produced.

Gasgoo.com: How do you see the trend regarding future automobile locking system?

Dr. Karl Krause: To meet the requirements of the vehicles of tomorrow, we'll make cost and weight optimization on the latch closing systems as the center of our attention. The trend will also include new security features and optimized comfort options. 

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