The Slovenia Times

Made in Slovenia



Generally speaking, Slovenian producers of automotive components are valued by their customers. They usually excel with their knowledge, technology and innovation. The problem is that there aren't quite as many customers as there could be, mainly because the automotive workforce here still costs significantly more than in some Eastern and Southern countries. Still these companies share a vision - in the near future they want to be among the leaders in the development of high-tech automotive components.

Ten years ago they joined together in the economic interest grouping the Automotive Cluster of Slovenia (ACS). The group currently includes 57 car parts manufacturers and six research organisations. By bringing the companies together, the goal was to strengthen the competitiveness and achieve better international visibility. Today, after a decade, it seems that the mission has been accomplished - Slovenian companies are now well positioned on the worldwide automotive components market.

To put it into figures: today Slovenian producers of car parts employ around 20,000 people and the sector managed to surpass three billion Euros' worth of income in its best years. Together with Revoz from Novo Mesto, which is the only Slovenian car plant, these ACS companies create around a tenth of gross domestic product and account for roughly 21 percent of the total sales of goods. The production of automotive components is therefore a very important strategic sector of the country's economy.

Adapting to changes

The global automotive market favours companies and suppliers that can adapt to change as quickly as possible. The current change to which it seems companies will need to adapt? The move towards electric vehicles. Slovenian components suppliers see this as big opportunity and want to strengthen their role in the coming years. But this won't be easy as such production requires big investments, something which many Slovenian companies cannot afford.

Electric is the way to go

Nonetheless, it is clear that some firms will be among the movers and shakers in electric cars. Among those that particularly stand out in the field is Hidria which has undertaken the development of an engine cold start system which helps extend the range of vehicles with electric motors. It is a completely new innovation that is ready for installation in electric vehicles of future generations. Iskra Avtoelektrikais, meanwhile, is completing the development of high-voltage electrical systems to power electric and hybrid vehicles. Among these parts the most important is an electric motor with permanent magnets.

Other manufacturers are also aware of the impact innovations have on their business as they try to create added value. In TPV Novo Mesto, engineers have recently developed an innovative seat with a self-adaptive headrest; Unior develops and manufactures hardware and various forgings; while Cimos and LTH Ulitkitry are out to beat the competition in the field of castings of various components.

The future promises a bumpy ride

So while Slovenian companies are well represented in the global automotive industry, they face a number of important requirements and challenges in the fields of ecology, security and reliability. Slovenian suppliers want to be positioned as partners of the Western European car manufacturers and not as a price alternative to the Eastern European or Asian competition. But to be competitive and successful in this never ending race they will have to favour constant research and development. With the change electric vehicles brings to the table it will be a high stakes game as these suppliers simply cannot afford to miss a development directive.

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