Mag. (FH) Peter Kuen: The automobile industry is moving forward – thanks to promising developments

One of the most important sectors of industry in Austria is the automotive industry and its suppliers. More than 700 companies with 170,000 employees and a total turnover of over 40 billion euros are testament to the country’s strength in the automotive sector. The crisis years are a thing of the past and vehicle parts and services “Made in Austria” are in greater demand than ever before. The main reasons for this are the quality, reliability and innovation on the domestic market.

A key driving force behind this develop­ment are the Austrian mobility clusters. The Automotive Cluster Upper Austria , the ACstyria and the Mobility Cluster Vienna network companies with R&D and educational institutions and bring busi­­ness and science together. This pro­motes cooperation between players in different sectors and increases the com­­petitiveness of the partner companies. The subsidiary Austrian Automotive Asso­­ciation combines the strengths of the clusters and supports Austrian compa­nies on the international stage. At the end of 2010, more than 500 companies and research institutions were members of the automotive clusters in Austria.

A prime location in the heart of Europe. Austria offers mobility companies the best possible economic conditions. Along with its central location in the heart of Europe and close economic ties with the emerging markets in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the diversity of languages spoken in Austria is an absolute asset for companies operating internationally. Over 60 per cent of the top 20 vehicle manufacturers have production facilities in Central and Eastern Europe, and Austria has excellent ties to the region.


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There are fourteen production sites of various manufacturers within 400 kilometres of Vienna, giving this region with one of the highest concentrations world­­wide. This and the availability of highly-qualified personnel are the reasons why renowned international companies have selected Vienna as a hub for their acti­vi­­ties in the booming markets in Central and Eastern Europe.

Success stories made in Austria. Austria has a large number of small and medium-sized businesses, which prove themselves in global competition day in and day out thanks to their innovation and quality, and are even world market leaders in some sectors.

One of the leading companies in Austria’s supplier industry is Magna. Among other things, the world’s most diversified auto­­mobile supplier is characterised by its recognition of vital developments in the industry early on, allowing it to prepare itself accordingly. For example, Magna recognised the major trend of alternative drive concepts at an early stage and integrated this trend into its operations. Magna is aiming to be one of the world’s leading development and manufacturing partners for hybrid and electric vehicles. Research, development and production expertise has been established in Austria in areas as diverse as concept development, system integration, and the devel­­opment and production of storage and battery systems.


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AVL, the world’s largest private company in the development and test engineering of drive systems is a strong partner even beyond the world of combustion engines. With 4,500 staff, this company invests 12.5 per cent of its turnover in research. This clearly shows what AVL stands for: high performance in innovation. The latest projects, such as range extenders, fuel cells, electronics and much more are devel­­oped by AVL specialists and, with an export share of 96 per cent, are successful around the world.

Developments on electric vehicles are in full swing. New drive systems require even greater safety with regard to electronics networking. TTTech Automotive in Vienna stands for the implementation of electronics and software in automobiles. The company aims to optimise the performance and costs of automobile net­­works through reliable communication solutions. For example, TTTech is currently involved in a project working on the reali­­sation of an electric four-wheel-drive based on an electrically driven rear axle. This solu­­tion is to go into series pro­duction in 2013 and meets the highest safety require­­ments in the automobile industry.


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What would research in Austria be without the AIT? The Austrian Institute of Technology is the country’s largest non-university research enterprise, with over 1,100 researchers. The Mobility Depart­ment focuses on the development of solu­­tions for efficient, safe and environmentally friendly mobility. Its expertise is focused on the comprehensive observa­tion of the entire mobility system: trans­port systems, infrastructure and vehicles are considered in equal measure. The Department’s outstanding national and international network allows emerging technologies to be fostered. AIT supports its customers in developing business models and ultimately in bringing innovations to market successfully.

Lightweight construction is crucial for the energy efficiency of vehicles and for the success of electric vehicles. With voestalpine, Austria can call a top player in Europe for special components its own. Nearly 41,000 employees around the world recently generated a turnover of eleven billion euros. Almost 50 per cent of this was achieved in the mobility sec­­tor. The 100 ongoing cooperation pro­jects with academic partners confirm the company’s innovative approach. One of the latest products is phs-ultraform®, which allows safety-related components and those highly susceptible to corrosion to be made even lighter. This patented product achieves a new dimension in lightweight construction with respect to freedom of design, dimension accuracy and high process stability.

Robert Bosch has used Vienna as a loca­­tion for Eastern European business for many years. Not only are sales managed from here – control units for motor man­­agement and for electric vehicles are also developed by the 400 employees in Vienna The development centre for diesel common rail injectors in Linz and the manufacturing of large-scale diesel and DeNox systems provide the finishing touches to the Austrian portfolio. The latest cooperation with Mahle will be launched with the production of exhaust gas turbochargers “Made in Austria”.

Innovative approaches in manufacturing and the worldwide benchmark in the General Motors Group show that Vienna can hold its own in any comparison of production locations. Opel Vienna is the largest General Motors engine and trans­­mission plant in the world and complements its competitiveness with tremen­dous diversity and the high quality of its products. The powerful petrol engines reflect the current demand for fuel-effi­cient, low-emission vehicles, while count­less transmission models ensure a wide range of application options. This allowed the international customer structure to be expanded, thereby securing the con­­tinued operation of the plant. The conditions for this production location are ideal. Political and economic stability, high educational standards and flexible working time mod­­els make it pos­­sible to optimise costs and produce goods at com­­petitive prices. Opel Vienna has al­­ready invested 2.2 billion euros in its site.

When we talk about light, we in Austria’s automotive industry mean Zizala ZKW. 2.5 million headlights and an export share of 99 per cent speak for themselves and are produced by nearly 2,200 employees in Austria. And the technological innova­tions of this lighting systems specialist don’t end there. AFS full-LED headlights for the current BMW 6 series are a current example of the developers’ skills. Other premium brands such as Audi, BMW, Daimler and Porsche are among the customers of the company based in Wieselburg.

Further evidence of success through cooperation is the Austrian Mobile Power association (AMP). Together with the lead­­ing companies Siemens Austria, Magna, AVL, AIT and KTM, the association launched this platform in 2009 to promote the devel­­opment and integration of future-oriented mobility concepts, including the use of renewable energies in Austria. AMP is guided by a clear vision: by 2020, Austria is to be among the leading markets for electromobility and set the worldwide standard for the integration of state-of-the-art mobility concepts. As a country of renewable energy sources, Austria offers the best conditions for an environ­men­tally friendly, sustainable traffic sys­­tem based on renewable energy.

Innovation, productivity, quality, flexibility, cooperation and precision are what char­­ac­­terises Austria as a business location. Aus­­trian products are highly respected around the world. Our companies react quickly to changes in the automobile industry and are ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

kuen20111018_004-KopieThe author has been the managing direc­­tor of the Austrian Automotive Associa­tion since 2006. After working for Bombardier for many years, he became head of the automobile cluster in Vienna and Lower Austria. Since 2011, Peter Kuen has been in charge of the cluster department at the Vienna Business Agency, focusing on mobi­­lity, IC and environmental technology.