Volume 13 | Issue 3 | Year 2010

One gets the impression that BOS Automotive thrives on challenge, no matter how considerable.
The company is like a high jumper that soars ever higher. Throw a problem its way, and it will find a way to hurdle the raised bar, no matter its elevation. True, this entails hard work, but rewards are huge: Its achievements leave the competition on the ground, with no place to look but up at the soles of BOS Automotive’s track shoes.

Tom Steigerwald, BOS Automotive’s director of sales and marketing, helps foster that impression. Consider his assessment of the recently difficult industry terrain and his company’s navigation of the environment: “Any automotive supplier that endured for the past 20 years encountered the market devastation of 2009,” he says. “But through this difficult period, we managed to remain financially healthy, which is not an easy thing to do in a down market. I’m not going to delude anyone into thinking it was a whole lot of fun, but our efforts kept us competitive and enabled us to emerge super healthy and poised to take on any other new marketplace challenges.”

As far as specific marketplace activity, the Rochester Hills, Michigan-based enterprise focuses on automotive supply with a specialization on interior componentry. “Our product line includes restraining nets, sun protection systems, luggage covers, cargo management systems and innovative armrest designs,” describes Steigerwald.

BOS Automotive, a North American branch of a German corporation, has already covered a great deal of territory in its relatively short existence. It was established in 1996, with its founding resulting from the parent company’s drive to establish a much broader global footprint, says Steigerwald.

The parent company, BOS GmbH & Co. KG, was established in 1910 in Germany as a supplier of accessories and parts for Mercedes Benz, indicates Steigerwald. It took a mere two decades for the organization to establish its reputation as a premiere component innovator, thanks to its pioneering introduction of the automotive sunshade, a product that brought the blind drawstring concept from the home and into vehicles.

Today, the privately owned parent company remains headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, which places it close to Mercedes Benz – a proximity that advances a supplier-customer relationship. Similarly (like father-like son, if you will), the BOS Automotive North American extension has set up shop close to two of its major customers: BMW and Mercedes Benz.

Continuing this DNA thread, BOS Automotive disseminates the parent company’s pioneering component innovations to major-league customers. As such, in North America, the company has successfully built its market by garnering a client list that includes many of the world’s major automotive companies. Along with BMW and Mercedes Benz, top clients include Toyota, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Chrysler, GM and Subaru. And that’s only in North America, Steigerwald points out. “Some of the innovations that we’ve been pushing in the North American market include our highly integrated sunshade system, characterized by its reduced mass and increased and improved coverage, which is integrated in to the vehicle trim,” he adds.

He’s justifiably proud of two other products. “One is our space-creating drawer, a cargo management feature that takes up little space when it’s not in use,” says Steigerwald, describing the product’s sleek profile. “When it’s expanded, it presents an incredible storage capacity. It’s not only user friendly but utilizes space in the most efficient fashion, as it fits into the vehicles spaces that are typically underutilized.”

“The ‘sister’ product is what we describe as a pop-up box,” Steigerwald continues. “It’s based on the same concept, but instead of hanging from the parcel shelf, it can be fitted into the floor, which creates a wonderful storage opportunity. When it’s not needed, it retracts into the floor.”

But luggage covers remain the largest part of its revenue stream, and BOS is the dominant American market provider of this specific componentry, and this business element continued growing with increased purchases of vehicles like SUVs and mini-vans. But the company’s sunshade market share also grew. Vehicles manufactured in America are becoming more and more similar to those made in Europe, where the parent company leads the way.

Speaking of efficient space usage, BOS Automotive applies this to its organizational structure. “To remain financially strong and to better serve our customers – which include a nice mix of European and Japanese transplants, as well as domestic companies – we’ve consolidated our facilities,” says Steigerwald. “But we’ve not only consolidated operations; we looked to placing them in low-cost countries.”

Several years ago, BOS Automotive, which currently has 500 North American employees, constructed a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Morristown, Tenn., close to BMW’s South Carolina factory and Mercedes’ Alabama plant. Subsequently, in 2003, BOS Automotive acquired Butz-Ieper, a small European company that owned and operated a plant in Puebla, Mexico. Operations became consolidated into a single operation located in Irapuato, Mexico, reports Steigerwald. “We accomplished the consolidation in 2008 and 2009,” he says, “and we started it because we anticipated a softening in the market, and we want to protect ourselves financially.”

This operation includes about 75,000 square feet of manufacturing/office space and an additional and adjacent 50,000 square feet of warehousing space. Beyond the Butz-Ieper acquisition, all of the company’s North American growth has been organic, adds Steigerwald.

During the first decade of the new century, BOS Automotive has indeed kept itself financially strong. Describes Steigerwald: “We never placed our eggs in one basket; we’ve spread them across the board. In 2009, when everything seemed to be going bad in the automotive market, we took on a reduction in revenue of about 27 percent. At the same time, other companies experienced reductions of 40 percent. Also at the time, the entire automotive segment was down about 45 percent.”

By keeping itself financially strong, BOS Automotive has helped its customers retain their own financial strength. One way is by keeping its research and development efforts close to its customers own R&D centers, relates Steigerwald, in particular its engineering development center located in Rochester Hills.

As far as growth, the future looks hopeful. “After a bad year in 2009, we anticipate growth in 2010 to be between 18 and 25 percent which, obviously, is quite healthy,” comments Steigerwald.

In addition, beyond 2010 and into 2011, revenues should increase from $78 million to $99 million. “These projections are on the high side, because the market is actually coming back. Further, this means more than just picking up new business. Fifty percent will relate to actual new business but the other half relates to the rebound of a market that went into the toilet in 2009,” he observes.

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