Bosch Tunes Its Business to Face Mobility’s Challenges

Executive VP of mobility solutions Paul Thomas talks about navigating the talent shortage, the Amazon partnership and staying on PACE.

Bosch's information domain computer "offers the flexibility to tailor in-vehicle features to customer preferences and market segments."

Components and systems that make up the heart of combustion-engine powertrains have long reigned as a major profit center for Bosch, and the company’s commitment to sustaining the ICE for as long as OEMs require is not vanishing. But as the industry swings toward electrified, automated and connected vehicles, new mobility solutions are needed. To help meet the current and future transit needs of customers, Bosch is investing $420 million in its North American mobility business unit. Paul Thomas, executive VP of mobility solutions for Bosch in the Americas, recently spoke with SAE Media Detroit editor Kami Buchholz about new opportunities.

Paul Thomas, executive VP of mobility solutions for Bosch in the Americas
What is currently the industry’s main mobility challenge?

The industry’s near-term challenge is a scarcity of talent and a lack of stability relating to supply and demand. Over the next few years, that talent shortage will need to support both ICE-powered vehicles and electrified vehicles, the latter requiring infrastructure and investments to support increased production.

How is Bosch positioned to help provide solutions?

In the near term, we’re trying to find fast solutions to increase supply. For the future, we’re continuing to invest in our core products that exist today — ICE components, braking and steering systems, thermal management – and using those core business investments as a leverage to achieve new mobility solutions.

Among the mobility sectors, which is taking an R&D priority at Bosch?

We’ve spent roughly half a billion dollars per year on electrification since 2016. We offer multiple options related to the electrical powertrain, including advanced steering and braking, charging solutions, cloud services and thermal management. Intelligent thermal management alone can increase the driving range of an electric vehicle by as much as 25%. Electric-vehicle thermal management products, like our flexible thermal unit, are important as the global market for this business is projected to reach $4 billion by decade’s end. We’re also starting to increase our expenditures on the automated and connectivity side of the business. Bottom line: We will stay invested in all the PACE (powertrain, automated, connected, electrified) areas.

How does Bosch North America define mobility?

Mobility is no longer just about moving people. It’s also about moving goods and forming partnerships. For instance, our partnership with Amazon Web Services is focused on developing a software-enabled logistics platform for the supply chain to help manage mobility. That product’s launch is expected in late 2022. Anything that we can do to help improve the movement of people and goods, and complement that with associated services, is our mobility goal.

How can collaboration help propel mobility R&D?

Bringing partners together with different backgrounds and different wants can be very beneficial. As one example, the Detroit Smart Parking Lab (DSPL) was founded by a real estate developer (Bedrock), a tier one supplier (Bosch), a global OEM (Ford), and a government agency (State of Michigan). Operated by the American Center for Mobility, the DSPL promotes a collaborative environment to test emerging technologies. All of the work being done is happening inside a parking garage.

On a recent project, each party had different views of what a first- and last-mile solution would look like. For that R&D project, we arrived at a solution that met the requirements of a diverse group of partners. The DSPL has different ongoing collaborative projects involving various companies, including start-ups, that focus on electrification, automation and connectivity. Collaboration can propel R&D by meeting the expectations of multiple partners versus an R&D project that’s done separately.