At electronica, automotive is one of the two main topics. But automotive also plays a key role at Rutronik: This market accounts for the lion’s share of sales and you have your own Rutronik Automotive Business Unit. How do you assess current developments in this segment?
Thomas Rudel: The key topics, which we also discussed at the first Automotive Congress held by Rutronik, are of course autonomous or semi-autonomous driving and electric mobility. The diesel debate is still in full swing, and the harmful influence of diesel vehicles on the climate and health is being overstated. If you consider that the fifteen largest container ships in the world alone emit as many pollutants into the atmosphere as 750 million cars, this quickly becomes clear. The pollutant emissions of gasoline engines, which are responsible for a large proportion of particulate pollution, are also hardly mentioned.
Do you see electric mobility as a solution?
To a limited extent. Electric mobility is a sustainable alternative but not a universal remedy. Since the disposal of the highly toxic batteries will pose another problem. If we do not find a solution for recycling, we will be facing a similar debate on the subject of disposal in a few years or decades as we are now facing when it comes to pollution. Another hurdle is the lack of an energy infrastructure to meet all the technological and safety requirements. I assume that this will take another 15 to 20 years.
What is your prognosis on the second topic you mentioned: (semi) autonomous driving?
The suppliers have already implemented a large number of very sophisticated assistance systems. But when it comes to autonomous driving, we first need the necessary infrastructure, in this case a telecommunications network. But here in Germany, the situation currently resembles a banana republic. Autonomous driving is not possible with the current cellular radio service! And I do not expect this to change any time soon – even if the politicians promise this year after year.
Added to this are security concerns that hackers can take control of a vehicle. As yet, there is no solution that offers sufficient security in this respect. One possibility would be systems that use redundancy as protection against manipulation, such as Paravan. The company builds disability-friendly vehicles and has developed a vehicle operating system with active multi-redundancy.
The supply situation for passive components is still a hot topic. How does this affect Rutronik and your customers?
Rutronik holds a top position in Europe for passive components. Thanks to our strong, long-standing supplier relationships, we were able to deliver around 70 billion passive components even in 2017, the allocation year, and by 2018 this figure will have risen to around 85 billion. This also shows that, despite allocation, we were still capable of supplying customers who had not purchased their total quantities exclusively from Rutronik in the past. However, our top priority is to ensure that our existing customers are able to maintain production. Just keep in mind: Even if prices continue to rise, the distribution of passive components is not a profitable business but a service for our customers.
Despite such services, Rutronik is very successful around the globe; the company is number three in Europe and number eleven worldwide.
Yes, that is true, and we are very proud of this fact - and of our employees around the world, who have done a fantastic job to make this possible. The level of success shows that our strategy is right and spurs us on to continue to give our best. Rutronik, of course, has also benefited from general growth in the components market, but in some areas we were able to grow faster than our competitors. Our constant and sustained expansion into new markets in America, Asia, and throughout Europe is also a contributing factor. In addition, there is our independence: As a family business, we can make decisions quickly – which makes us exceptionally flexible. This is an unbeatable advantage, especially in times of such short development and innovation cycles as well as market shifts.