Saarland is a location with sophisticated competence in the automotive industry. According to a study of Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft (German Institute of Economy – Cologne), the fourth smallest federal state today is the third-biggest automobile supply centre for Germany. In lieu of the structural transformation from steel and coal industry all the way to the automotive industry, significant manufacturers and suppliers have settled in Saarland over the past 35 years. These have become the motor of the economy of the Saarland. The sector recently recorded an average yearly turnover of ten billion euros. That is 40 per cent of the whole of Saarland’s industrial turnover. From this, around six billion euros are achieved through exported business.
The automotive industry also provides the main share for new investments in Saarland with an average of 350 million euros. All in all, more than 46,000 employment contracts and over 150 companies on the Saar today, directly or indirectly, are dependent upon the automotive sector. This means that in Saarland, every fourth industrial employee works in automobile construction. Also in the larger region of SaarLorLux, the automotive field is the largest industrial sector. Here it provides twelve per cent of workplaces, whereby Lorraine – as the second strongest automobile centre in France – together with Saarland makes the greater contribution here.
The spectrum of production in Saarland is extremely varied. Large companies, such as Ford in Saarlouis, Robert Bosch GmbH in Homburg or ZF Getriebe GmbH in Saarbrücken, generated the settlement of numerous suppliers and subcontractors and thereby brought forward far-reaching competency in different key areas among Saarland’s gainfully employed.
Around 2,000 vehicles are produced every day at the Fordplant. According to international studies on the automobile industry, the factory – with its flexible and slim work processes – counts as an exemplary model for European automobile manufacturers.
The outstanding competence in logistics and production processes is also mirrored in the interplay with the supplier park that settled around the Ford premises.
Homburg is an important manufacturing location for Bosch regarding high-tech diesel systems as well as industrial hydraulics, and it plays a significant role in the worldwide developing and manufacturing network. The factory produces components for the high-pressure fuel injection systems “Common Rail” and “Unit Pump System”. Above all, suppliers of manufacturing parts, test stands and injection components supply the location from nearby.
Also the production of ZF automatic gears in Saarbrücken has made the settlement of suppliers more favourable. Highly developed areas are the fields of assembly line and special machine construction as well as the stamping technique. The construction of exhaust systems has been successfully conducted with a constant reduction in pollutant and noise emissions by Eberspächer GmbH & Co. KG at the Neunkirchen location for decades. Many SMEs have settled around the facilites and mainly deliver stamping parts, pressing tools and appliances.
Advantageous to Saarland is also the specialized knowledge of steel production that is based on its industrial history. The Saarstahl concern above all supplies raw materials, among other things, for the production of crankshafts, tire cord and high-strength connection devices to SMEs around the state.
Further important competencies with which large concerns attract SMEs to settle near them and to encourage them with orders are the production of engine blocks made of cast iron and aluminium, motor elements, vehicle seals, trim strips, bumpers, tyres as well as the construction of prototype car bodies of important automobile producers.
The networking of SMEs and major enterprises is carried out by the automotive.saarland cluster. In the fields of company cooperation, technology transfer, qualification, market research and location marketing, contacts are initiated on all levels of company areas and synergies are encouraged.
In summary, the great potential of Saarland’s automobile industry can be explained through many aspects: eight per cent of vehicles produced in Germany come from Saarland. Vehicles “made in Saarland” also drive around in Angola, Australia, Jamaica, Japan, Tahiti, Taiwan, New Zealand and South Africa. Renowned premium vehicles receive up to 50 per cent of their increase in value from companies that produce in Saarland. With the placement of the innovation cluster Automotive Quality Saar, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft also makes use of this versatility and competence. All this indicates the excellent initial position for Saarland to use its location advantages in the best possible way and build up the potential of its economic power in a goal-oriented manner.
Armin Gehl, born in 1948, took on an editorial position at the Saarländischer Rundfunk. Following this he worked in the field of press/public relations for VSE and BOSCH as well as for the Ministry of Economic Affairs (1999–2000). He is a temporary lecturer at the Saarland University of Applied Sciences (HTW) and has been the head of the cluster automotive.saarland at the Centre for productivity and technology in the Saarland (ZPT) since 2006.