Hitachi-Astemo and the Electrified Future
Hitachi-Astemo's new leader in America says more expensive, larger components become in-demand items, floor space at factories will need to be optimized.
Tim Clark became Hitachi Astemo’s CEO and president of the Americas in April 2023 after seven years as the company’s head of European operations. During a recent SAE Media interview, Clark addressed topics that will impact the mobility supplier’s product portfolio of powertrain and chassis systems, software, and autonomous driving/advanced driver assist systems.
What sector has the largest market share for Hitachi Astemo in the Americas?
Powertrain. That will change, though, with the industry’s move to electrification. Our electrified vehicle technologies include the motor, inverter, e-drive, and battery controls. We absolutely need our current suspension and ICE powertrain business to help us finance the move to electrification because it’s quite expensive. In a way, the North America market’s slow transition to electrification helps us fund things, but we’re ready for a quicker transition, too.
How do you plan to increase market share for its software and advanced driver assist systems?
It’s not simply designing and developing ADAS technologies, then selling the systems to the OEMs. Most ADAS technology solutions have us working very closely with an OEM, so that means the tentacles with the OEM need to be very deep and wide. We’ve traditionally been a hardware manufacturer. But in the past 15 years, we’ve also provided software solutions. For electrification applications, software is a massive undertaking. So we’re growing our talented software group as quickly as we can. We’re always looking to improve the software engineering area of our business. That’s the difficult nut that all of us old hardware producers have to crack.
What’s the biggest challenge during the transition to electrified vehicles?
We’re going from the smaller, lower-cost components associated with ICE applications to components for electrified vehicles that require huge upfront investment and lots of factory floorspace. That’s definitely a big hurdle. Shifting from the production of 7-inch (178 mm) by 10-inch (254 mm) starter motors to massive-sized electric drives can quickly fill a factory. Our facility footprint team is going through each of our 25 manufacturing/assembly sites in the Americas to find ways to optimize floor space in preparation for additional electrification business. In the short term, we’ll probably be able to manage our floorspace needs. But as we get into higher volumes with electrification, we will need to expand.
How is the supplier role changing?
There’s isn’t assurity about tomorrow’s business and that’s causing suppliers to act differently. We have traditionally known that tomorrow there will be a new engine, or tomorrow there will be a new vehicle so that’s a continual flow of potential business. But with electrification, we really don’t know as much about what to expect in the future and that makes it more difficult to make investment decisions. However, many electrification technologies come from rail, and Hitachi is a big player with a long history in that mobility sector.