Thyssenkrupp Planning for a Successful Year in Hungary

Automotive

Marc de Bastos Eckstein

Thyssenkrupp Components Technology Hungary Kft. managing director Marc de Bastos Eckstein reflects on how COVID has impacted the automotive industry and the German-owned company’s plans for bouncing back.

The wide-spread Hungarian operation makes electromechanical power steering and engin components in Jászfényszaru (65 km northeast of the capital by road), has a stabilizers and coils manufacturing plant in Debrecen (220 km east), a drivetrain-assembly plant and steel service center in Győr (121 km northwest), and a specialist electronics and electromechanics R&D competence center in Budapest.

BBJ: In the second half of last year, the COVID-19 epidemic was causing severe difficulties for Thyssenkrupp, as with many others, yet the group stated that there was no reason to be frustrated and that it had a positive outlook. How do you see the situation of the global automotive industry?

Marc de Bastos Eckstein: Although the epidemic continues to cause difficulties, forcing the automotive industry to adapt to the challenges at an incredible pace, and even though things are not going as well as before the epidemic, demand is still good. Production suffers here and there from more minor interruptions, but the shortage of mircochips could really endanger the industry; nevertheless, it is getting better. The automotive industry is still extremely robust and has excellent potential in Hungary. In addition, through its decisions, the Government of Hungary also shows that the state does not hesitate when unexpected situations arise that require action to be taken. Thyssenkrupp is in an optimal position in the sense that the interruption of global supply systems and the worldwide shortage of semiconductors affecting the automotive industry has caused no disruption in our Hungarian plants. With a bit of luck, 2021 could even be a good business year. Given the circumstances, this would be a huge success.

BBJ: What are the consequences of the pandemic, what should be changed in the supply chain?

MBE: The pandemic has shown that the supply chain should be modified and some suppliers should be closer to the OEMs in Europe: we expect that and are working on moving more suppliers to Europe, and especially to Hungary, in the future.

BBJ: What are you working on now?

MBE: We are doing quite well because we did not have to lay off any staff. Production is running smoothly in all our factories across Hungary; moreover, our competence center in Budapest is also performing well; we have many new projects. It is a significant achievement indeed that our Budapest center has opened an office in the city of Veszprém. More than 20 colleagues are currently working there, but the staff members will soon reach 80. Today we have more than 1,000 employees in Budapest. In addition to electromechanical power steering and steer-by-wire developments (using only an electronic instead of a mechanical connection), the development of vehicle motion control has also started in Budapest, which implements computer-based instructions within the vehicle as part of the self-driving systems.

Another important achievement is that, following Budapest University of Technology and Economics, the University of Óbuda, and the University of Debrecen, we have also signed a cooperation agreement with the Pannon University of Veszprém. This includes support for educational development and courses related to automotive systems, and a specific clause including this field in masters’ dissertations. Thyssenkrupp also provides students with job opportunities to include them in actual research and development tasks.

On the other hand, however, we still have to be patient about the construction of our factory in Pécs in 2021. We are very much looking forward to a stable market in order to implement this project.

BBJ: How can you plan for the long run given circumstances like COVID-19?

MBE: We try to get an insight into the future:  I personally, and Thyssenkrupp as company, support innovations both in-house and out. We have our own specialists but we are supporting startups in Hungary too.

We have been developing and manufacturing in Hungary for the last 20 years and have invested about HUF 50 billion here so far. It is worth continuing this tradition.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of  May 21, 2021.

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