Interview with Jorg Grotendorst, SVP of Corporate R&D of Magna International
Magna is the only global supplier to offer a comprehensive range of services from parts to complete vehicle design and manufacturing. It boasts highly integrated system capabilities and solid capabilities for operational excellence across vehicles, which is why it has long been thought of as Apple's hidden partner. With Jorg Grotendorst, SVP of Corporate R&D of Magna, we looked back at the IAA Mobility and talked about highlights of their press conference and booth.
Written by Han
Q. You joined Magna earlier this year, and your title as SVP Car of Future carries significant meaning. I noticed that you have had various careers related to drivetrain and electrification. Could you please explain what your role at Magna and how your background aligns with this mission?
A. I am primarily responsible for defining Magna’s technology roadmap for future mobility by integrating all of the competencies within the company. My background as an engineer combined with extensive automotive knowledge spanning various leadership positions and my in-depth understanding of emerging trends aligns well with the responsibilities of the role.
Q. At the start of your IAA speech, you mentioned that people often ask, "What will the car of the future look like?" You also referenced the expectations people have for models like KITT, DeLorean DMC-12, and Mandalorian Razor Crest. Could you please provide more details about your answer in relation to these three models?
A. Vehicles such as the DeLorean and KITT may have seemed futuristic in their time, none of them would actually be relevant today. Instead, we are moving towards a diverse range of options for individual mobility. The concept of a singular “car of the future” is outdated. We can expect to see a variety, such as individual shuttles, micro cars, electric supercars, and even urban air taxis. Ultimately, it will be up to the customers to decide which type of vehicle best suits their needs and purposes.
Q. I'm asking because Star Wars is mentioned. Does Magna envision a future for cars that includes e-bikes or R2-D2?
A. We continue to see an expanding ecosystem for Magna to go beyond the traditional supply and manufacture of vehicles. We are actively identifying opportunities within the new mobility ecosystem to leverage our capabilities and tap into new growth areas and business models. The segments we intend to participate in, include ‘goods’ and ‘people’ mobility, and we’re making progress in both. Through our JV with Yulu, we recently launched an electric battery-as-a-service platform, which has proven to be successful in one of the world’s largest 2-wheel markets. Since we invested in the JV last September, our network has surpassed half a million swaps per month, generating a recurring revenue stream. Given our manufacturing expertise and the growing market for autonomous bots, we are an ideal industrialization partner. And we are building an integrated software platform for our connected hardware offerings that can support new markets and recurring revenue opportunities.
Magna launched its electric battery service platform through JV with Yulu. Since investing in JV in September last year, Magna's network has generated repeated revenue streams, exceeding 500,000 swaps per month. Magna also mass-produced robots at a facility in Troy, Michigan, with robot startup Cartken.
Q. Considering Magna's business structure, which includes vehicle manufacturing and engineering, it appears to be a crucial and cash-cow area for future cars. Is this why Magna is keeping considered as the manufacturer of the Apple Car? Could you please provide insights into Magna's strengths, capabilities, and global status based on its portfolio?
A. We do not talk about dedicated or potential customers. Magna is the only automotive supplier offering a comprehensive range of services from components to complete vehicle design and manufacturing. Our strength lies in our highly integrated systems capabilities across the entire vehicle, as well as our unwavering commitment to operational excellence. That’s why established automakers and emerging players turn to us for their needs.
Q. As a traditional Tier 1 supplier, Magna, like other companies in the industry, faces challenges in securing software capabilities and adapting to new architectures in the era of software-defined automobiles. How does Magna respond to these challenges and seize opportunities?
A. Automotive systems engineers aren’t just writing code; they are helping to shape the Car of the Future and the Factory of the Future. That’s because software engineering in general is undergoing a radical shift toward systems thinking in nearly every industry. With automotive systems engineering, we’re moving past the software-defined vehicle filled with millions of lines of code, and envisioning the larger system. A more accurate term is the “systems-defined vehicle.” Systems thinking allows us to leverage the interconnectedness of the thousands of features and functions in a vehicle, everything from the smallest actuator to autonomous driving. This is essential as we achieve the next level in electrification, autonomy, new mobility and connectivity.
Building on our strong engineering base, we recently announced the establishment of the Magna Innovation Campus in Bangalore. This campus will serve as a dedicated hub for electronics and software development, bolstering our global efforts in this area while ensuring sustained growth. In addition, with the acquisition of the Veoneer Active Safety business, we have also solidified our position as one of the leading providers of ADAS worldwide. Building upon this foundation, we are actively preparing to leverage our capabilities and expertise, bringing together our global network of experts to collaborate on serial programs and define future architectures and solutions for software-defined vehicles.
Q. When I think of Magna, I associate it with e-drive, powertrain technologies such as eAWD, drivetrains, and drive control systems. I anticipate increased competition in the electrification market. How is Magna maintaining its competitive edge in terms of "cleaner," "personalized," "secured," and "powerful performance" vehicles? Will technologies like AI, Connectivity, Cloud, and Sensors be utilized?
A. You are correct, we combine our core expertise with future trends and capabilities to assist our customers in making mobility smarter and cleaner. We call these Eco Innovations, which encompass technologies that create driving experiences that are environmentally friendly. Software, connectivity, and other innovations play an important role in achieving this goal. As an illustration, our Energy & Motion Control technology exemplifies a modular and scalable software platform. It is a great example of our commitment to highly integrated system development, encompassing powertrain, electronics and other vehicle functions to enable the realization of software-defined vehicle.
Q. ‘User experience’ is crucial aspect of SDV. What ‘experience’ can Magna highlight and support?
A. We showed great examples at IAA, including the previously mentioned Energy & Motion Control technology that revolutionizes the driving experience for customers. Another great example is our Real Time Pressure Sensing technology, which utilizes sensors to measure the occupant's position and pressure on the surface of the seat. Our proprietary software then automatically adjusts the bolsters based on pre-determined preferred pressures. This system does not rely on the occupants’ biometrics, as it intelligently determines the right pressure for each situation. The combination of sensors and software creates a personalized seat reaction and positioning for every occupant. For instance, when wearing a winter coat or thicker sweater, the same resulting pressure will result in less movement in the bolster compared to wearing a thin shirt the day before. This level of adaptability ensures unparalleled comfort and support for individuals in varying circumstances.
At the IAA, Magna introduced a modular and scalable Energy & Motion Control software platform. It increases the electric driving distance by up to 90 miles (144 km) and reduces exhaust gas by 13-38%, improving safety and improving driving performance. Magna also introduced the Mezobreak Plus, which features a Morphing Surface, and the Thermoplastic Tailgate, which has a groundbreaking lighting solution.
Q. LG-Magna was mentioned in LG Electronics' presentation at IAA. Magna collaborated with LG Electronics to establish LG-Magna and is now constructing a new plant in Hungary. What does LG Electronics mean to Magna and what kind of partnership exists between the two?
A. The joint venture between Magna and LG brings together the strengths of both companies in the field of electric powertrain systems and world-class automotive manufacturing. Magna’s expertise in these areas, coupled with LG’s capabilities in component development for e-motors and inverters, creates a powerful synergy. The collaboration provides us with the agility to respond to market trends and effectively meet the evolving needs of our customers while continuing to expand our presence in the value chain. Our LG-Magna e-Powertrain JV sales grew from around $150 million in 2019 to about $600 million last year. And sales in the JV are expected to grow at about 40% CAGR from ‘22 to ‘25. To support this growth, we have started production in a new facility in Mexico, and as you saw, we announced an additional facility to be built in Eastern Europe.
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