Corporate Spotlight Interview: Magna International

May 20, 2019 07:30 AM EST By: Regina Ramazzini

Interview with Ian Simmons, Vice President of Business Development at Magna International.

Magna International Ian Simmons

How Magna is preparing itself to contribute to the evolution of the automotive industry?

At Magna we say the vehicle doesn’t just have technology, the vehicle is technology.

The future of mobility will be autonomous and electrified. Global automakers and suppliers are planning to spend $300 billion over the next 10 years to bring electric cars to the mass market. A year ago, that figure was only $90 billion. Just a few years ago, the automated driver-assistance systems (ADAS) market was relatively low.  We forecast now that by 2030, the global ADAS market will grow to $80-$95 billion annually.

Our ever-expanding portfolio of powertrain products prepares us to match the market’s progression from internal combustion engines to plug-in hybrids to battery electric vehicles. Magna’s electrified powertrain capabilities include key components for modern eDrive systems, including e-motor, gearbox, inverter and control software that can easily be integrated into vehicles.

There is no question that we deal with one of the most complex products in the world that is highly regulated.  Because of this, predictions especially related to autonomous and electrification, are risky because factors like legislation, infrastructure, cost, customer acceptance, etc. all play a major role in the race toward full implementation.

Leveraging our collective expertise, we are able to develop systems quickly and grow faster. Using our agility and entrepreneurial mindset to develop new technologies addressing changing market demands.  So we are ready regardless of what the future of the industry looks like. And we have the unique ability to auto qualify solutions from other industries which is helping shape future mobility for the entire industry.  This is our building block approach.

What kind of solutions can Magna provide for new mobility initiatives?

The automotive industry has always had made an impact in some of these areas:

With brilliant and disruptive thinking everywhere, the question isn’t about when things like driverless cars are coming or when all vehicles will be fully electric. The question is about who is ready for these transformative shifts.

The pace and breadth of innovation has accelerated over the past 5-10 years. Magna continues to develop its core competences in house at an accelerated pace, and has always partnered with the brightest and best for technological advancements.

New technologies required for future mobility are coming from further afield, i.e. Biometric sensors, RADAR, LiDAR, ever increasing requirements for onboard computing / processing and application of AI. This has driven many valuable partnerships with startups, entrepreneurs and technical specialists to be able to respond to the expanding unique technical requirements with Magna providing the application expertise and ability to rapidly commercialize and auto qualify the technology.

By combining the technical focus and agility of startups with the global volume production experience of Magna needed by global automakers, we have a roadmap to accelerate technology development in far shorter time scales.

As you think about the number of players you are currently working with in the autonomous/electric/mobility evolution, what is the process for assessing which companies or technology makes the most sense to invest in or partner with versus acquire or buy outright?

This is a complex issue. It is unlikely there will be a one-size-fits-all solution, as automakers and others are taking different technology approaches, and that is driving a certain amount of complexity within a large first-tier supplier like Magna. There is also a practice that automakers typically do not want to have the same core technology as their competitors for commercial and competitive reasons.

There is potential for platform and scalable technologies supported by suppliers as vehicles approach autonomous adoption and as the differentiators are likely to be services, function and features, not vehicle dynamics, safety and driving (or driven) behavior. Those latter attributes are likely to become very similar in autonomous applications over time.

Overall when you look at the funds invested by auto companies, suppliers and the venture community in autonomous and adjacent technologies, it is clear that not all will benefit from a return from their investment. Consolidation and collaboration will likely be the outcome of economic imperatives and the overall benefit of scale. It is clear that only those suppliers with a substantial balance sheet and global scale will prevail, but that will still require collaboration to meet the aggressive cost targets that are needed to make the technology accessible to consumers, and more importantly supporting business cases for mobility-as-a-service providers of the future.

Can you tell us about the solutions and technologies from Magna that help improve vehicle performance, fuel efficiency and emissions?

We expect to see the introduction and significant expansion of 48V Mild Hybrid systems, especially in Europe. The MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle) improves the operating efficiency of powertrains with internal-combustion engines, thereby reducing CO2. For Europe this will be an important feature to offset the effect of lower penetration of diesel engines, which have a better CO2 performance vs. gasoline engines.

These MHEV systems will include configurations which are P0 (belt driven), P1 and P2 (engine driven), and what we call P2.5, which reflects the hybrid dual-clutch transmission (HDT) we have developed for both mild hybrid and full (high voltage) hybrid systems. Our 48V HDT can power the vehicle “engine-off”, enabling numerous benefits even with low power 48V systems (electric creeping, electric assisted sailing, etc.).

We expect to see further expansion of dual-clutch transmissions globally, as this product is the most efficient automatic transmission and alone can reduce CO2 vs. traditional automatic transmissions.

We also expect demand for sport-utility vehicles and crossover-utility vehicles to continue increasing globally, and as well foresee the take rate on 4WD and AWD systems to increase as they bring consumer benefits of traction assist and active safety improvements. Our portfolio of on-demand / active 4WD and AWD systems will therefore support this trend and we expect growth in these traditional products.

IoT has begun playing a major role in the manufacturing while IT and software help reduce development time of vehicles besides helping in data management, product lifecycle management and also driver behavior analysis. Can you share your experience on these technologies?

The car has become the beachhead for the Internet of Things revolution. Consumer electronics, cloud computing and driver assistance systems have converged on today’s car.

As noted earlier, the vehicle doesn’t just have technology, the vehicle is technology.  That same kind of mindset is what will take us into the next generation manufacturing. Smart factory or Industry 4.0 is broad and touches many aspects of the manufacturing process.  Advanced robotics performing complex assembly tasks is one area we are focusing on.  Additionally, we are working on advanced robotics to do some predictive analytics that will be used to schedule repairs and maintenance before machines break down and AI that provides access to real-time data, allowing managers to immediately react to a concern or quality issue. 

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