InCar® plus is a forward-thinking, all-round package for the automotive industry. Oliver Hoffmann (l.) from thyssenkrupp Steel Europe and Alexander Gulden from Components Technology talk about the fruitful results of an intensive three-year development project.
Dr. Gulden, what does the Groupwide thyssenkrupp InCar® plus research project mean for the Group?
Gulden: The project bundles the automotive expertise of the entire thyssenkrupp Group. It shows what we are capable of when we combine skills from all over the Group in our innovations – from development all the way to customer presentations.
Mr. Hoffmann, how is this project different from the previous InCar® initiative?
Hoffmann: The basic idea is the same: to offer customers a range of helpful, innovative solutions, often with a number of alternatives, or a selection of different options. The ‘plus’ simply means that time has not stood still. The past few years have seen changes in customer requirements that we have addressed in this new project.
What are some of these changes?
Hoffmann: More high-strength steels are used in car bodies today than they were a few years ago. We have also integrated new findings from a number of consumer studies and addressed the increasing move towards electromobility.
Gulden: And we are right on time with our electromobility solutions. The first cars of this kind have hit the market, and emission regulations are tightening all over the globe. We predict that the range of different drive solutions will continue to expand – these solutions include different types of drive systems, such as combustion engines, hybrid engines, and electric cars. InCar® plus offers solutions that help our customers to move forward in these areas.
What makes you different from the competition?
Gulden: Our team is very special. Whether it's materials, components, tools, or production technologies, we have all the skills we need under one roof. In a pragmatic sense, that means shorter lines of communication as well as the opportunity to develop new material products and types or try out hybrid materials – just because we can. This allows us to work faster and yields more mature and sophisticated products. And this helps to ensure that customers can properly integrate these solutions into their own products.
Hoffmann: Thanks to our wide-ranging experience in the automotive sector, we as a company are very different from our competitors. I have never seen a concept study so broad in scope and yet so deeply rooted in expertise as the InCar® plus project. It ranges from new chassis and steering control technologies to optimized combustion engines, and from the development of body components and seat structures all the way to electric drives.
Are these large, company-wide projects a model for the future?
Gulden: They absolutely are. This type of comprehensive program is a massive asset in approaching customers. My area, Components Technology, comprises many different – and uniquely important – divisions, for example Shocks, Steering, Camshafts, etc. In spite of that, an individual company would not be nearly as effective in catering to the needs of automotive manufacturers as we are with InCar® plus.
Hoffmann: On top of that, InCar® plus is a highly visible project within the Group. Our members of the Executive Board, and Mr. Hiesinger in particular, have been very active in their support of the initiative. This means that the executives representing our contacts and partner companies are aware of the project as well, which goes a long way towards securing its success. However, our products naturally still have to earn the approval of technical specialists.
When will we be seeing the InCar® plus solution on the streets in real life?
Gulden: That depends on the part in question. In this project – unlike in the previous InCar® project – we have made sure to include innovations – for example electrical steering systems – that can already be implemented in the new generation of vehicles. However, we also focused on a number of topics that are further down the road.
Hoffmann: Many solutions are ready in that sense, insofar as we can make them available for all customers. It also takes time for the customer to actually implement the solutions. It’s important to remember that it can take a number of years for the customer to secure approval for a new material or technology.