London / Berlin, May 30 (Reuters)-Unobtrusive wire harnesses, which are cheap parts for bundling cables, are unlikely to be a tragedy for the automotive industry. Some people predict that it may accelerate the collapse of the burning vehicle.
The supply of auto parts was suffocated by the war in Ukraine, where a significant portion of the world’s production is present, where hundreds of thousands of new cars are fitted with wire harnesses each year.
These low-tech, low-margin parts made of wire, plastic, and rubber are made by many low-cost manuals, although they may not get the praise of microchips and motors. You can’t build a car without it.
Sign up now for unlimited free access to Reuters.com
Supply shortages could accelerate plans for some legacy car companies to switch to a new generation of lightweight mechanical harnesses designed for electric vehicles, according to interviews with more than 12 industry players and experts. I have.
“This is another reason for the industry to make the transition to electricity faster,” said Sam Fiorani, head of production forecasting firm AutoForecast Solutions.
Gasoline cars still dominate the world’s new car sales. According to JATO Dynamics data, EVs doubled to 4 million units last year, but still account for only 6% of car sales.
Nissan (7201.T) CEO Makoto Uchida told Reuters that supply chain disruptions such as the Ukraine crisis have led to discussions with suppliers about the move from cheap wire harness models.
But for the time being, automakers and suppliers have shifted harness production to other low-cost countries.
Mercedes-Benz (MBGn.DE) According to someone familiar with the operation, he was able to fly the harness from Mexico and fill the short supply gap. Some Japanese suppliers are adding capacity in Morocco, while others are looking for new production lines in countries such as Tunisia, Poland, Serbia and Romania.
Harnesses for fossil fuel vehicles bundle cables that stretch up to 5 km (3.1 miles) in the average vehicle and connect everything from the seat heater to the windows. They are very labor intensive to manufacture and almost all models are unique, making it difficult to make a rapid production shift.
The Ukrainian supply turmoil was a rude awakening for the automotive industry. Automakers and suppliers said the factory remained open in the early days of the war, thanks to workers’ determination to continue to reduce the flow of moving parts in the face of power outages, air raid warnings, and curfew. Said.
Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said British luxury car makers were initially afraid to lose 30-40% of 2022 car production due to lack of harnesses.
“The crisis in Ukraine threatened to shut down the factory altogether for a much longer period than in the case of COVID.”
Hallmark said finding alternative sources is complicated by the fact that the traditional harness itself had 10 different parts from 10 different suppliers in Ukraine.
He added that supply issues sharpened Bentley’s focus and investment in the development of simple harnesses for EVs run by central computers.Automaker, a division of Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE)We are planning a full electric lineup by 2030.
“A Tesla model with a completely different wiring concept couldn’t be changed overnight,” Hallmark added. “It’s a fundamental change in the way we design cars.”
New generation wire harnesses used by natives of electric vehicles like Tesla are lightweight because they can be created in the section of an automated production line and reducing the weight of the EV is important for expanding scope. Is an important factor.
Many of the interviewed executives and experts face looming bans in Europe and China, fossil fuel vehicles are sufficient to justify a redesign to enable the use of next-generation harnesses He said it wasn’t that long.
“I wouldn’t put a penny in an internal combustion engine right now,” said Sandy Munro, a Michigan-based car consultant. He predicts that EVs will account for half of global new car sales by 2028.
“The future is coming very fast.”
“Change in paradigm”
Walter Glück, head of Leoni’s harness business, said suppliers are working with automakers to work on new automation solutions for EV wire harnesses.
Leoni focuses on zone or modular harnesses. These harnesses are divided into 6-8 parts, long enough to automate assembly and reduce complexity.
“This is a paradigm change,” Gluck said. “If you want to reduce production time in a car factory, modular wire harnesses can help.”
Among automakers, BMW is also considering the use of modular wire harnesses, which save space and reduce weight by requiring fewer semiconductors and cables.
Those who couldn’t be named because they weren’t allowed to speak publicly said the new harness would also make it easier to upgrade the vehicle wirelessly-Tesla is currently in control. area.
California-based startup CelLink has developed a fully automated, flat, easy-to-install “flex harness” that will raise $ 250 million earlier this year from companies such as BMW and car supplier Lear Corp. I procured it. (Lean) And Robert Bosch (ROBG.UL). read more
CEO Kevin Coakley did not identify the customer, but said CelLink harnesses were installed in nearly one million EVs.
Only Tesla has that scale, but the carmaker didn’t respond to requests for comment.
According to Corkley, Celllink’s new $ 125 million plant under construction in Texas has 25 automated production lines and components are manufactured from digital files, so it can vary in about 10 minutes. You can switch the design.
He said the company is working on EVs with many automakers and is considering building another plant in Europe.
The lead time for replacing a traditional wire harness can be up to 26 weeks, but Corkley said his company could ship the redesigned product in two weeks.
Dan Ratliff, principal of Fontinalis Partners, a Detroit-based venture capital firm founded by Ford, says such speed is what legacy automakers are looking for when using electricity. (FN) He is Chairman of Billford and invests in CelLink.
For decades, the industry didn’t have to act swiftly to rethink parts like wire harnesses, but Tesla changed that, Ratriff added.
“On the EV side, it just goes, goes, goes.”
Sign up now for unlimited free access to Reuters.com
Report by Nick Carrie in London and Christina Aman in Berlin. Additional report by Satoshi Sugiyama of Tokyo. Edited by Pravin Char
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters trusts the principles.