Much of the growth is thanks to the company's investment in new technology that focuses on improving vehicle performance, from looking at opportunities with existing internal combustion engines to advanced electric or fuel cell powertrains — and marrying those products with “state-of-the-art, plastic processing technology,” said Justin White, vice president and commercial managing director with Röchling USA.
Until five years ago, Röchling was seen as a strong processor in Europe, but hadn't yet broken through in the U.S. outside of work with European automakers' assembly plants in the Southeastern United States.
That changed quickly, however, once American automakers signed on to key parts such as active grille shutters.
The shutters sit just behind the front grille and are open when a car engine is warm or the car is operating at slower speeds, but close at faster speeds to improve performance.
“If you look into it in North America, you'll find there's not too many cars left that do not have a grille shutter,” said CEO Erwin Doll. “The decision was made by Ford, it was made by GM to place it in all their cars. Chrysler is following this as well, along with the Japanese [automakers].
“In fact, we are supplying more active grille shutters in North America than in Europe now.”
At the 2016 auto show, Röchling was making its first appearance to show what it believes is the next generation of aerodynamic improvements. That includes both an updated grille shutter — using vertical rather than horizontal plastic blades that can improve function, fit into smaller spaces and provide more design flexibility — and two new products similarly designed to move air smoothly around the car at higher speeds.
Active speedlips are a small, plastic shield with integrated electronics that would drop down in front of each of the front wheels when a car or truck is moving at least 43 mph and redirect the air flow more smoothly past the car, said Juergen Peters, vice president and general manager of the customer center for North America.
An active air dam would drop down beneath the bumper at higher speeds, likewise to improve aerodynamics.
Speedlips more closely match the needs of the U.S. market, which relies more heavily on trucks, crossovers and sport utility vehicles than the European market, Doll said. In addition, they are less likely to be in a crash zone, because they sit further back than the front of the car, and they likely would not need paint, unlike a dam which is easy to spot.
“We are absolutely confident that we will get the first order for speedlips this year, although the air dams could come as well,” he said.
Röchling also is looking at other long-term offerings, from a de-gas bottle to be used with fuel cell vehicles to a multi-layer integrated sandwich floor, which would replace an existing steel floor with a complete system that would reduce weight and assembly time and improve acoustic performance.
Doll, who has been with the supplier for nine years, noted that the company is being careful not to put its technology capabilities ahead of its sales flow.
“We had maybe too much of an emphasis on processing in the past,” he said. “We had a production strategy that said, ‘We have X amount of machines and they all need to run.' When I came we defined a strategy so that we really focused on specific products. That's how our product lines are now organized and why we see growth of 12 percent per year.”