Günther Apfalter

Günther Apfalter

Magna Steyr is a global, brand-independent engineering and manufacturing partner to automakers, offering solutions for a range of services with development and assembly strategies. The company used the Geneva show earlier this month to exhibit a self-charging electric fuel cell vehicle and, more recently, is reported to have submitted a plan to build a new car plant in Slovenia capable of building up to 200,000 cars a year. To learn more about these developments and its acquisition of Telemotive, just-auto/QUBE spoke to Günther Apfalter, president of Magna Steyr.

We understand that your self-charging electric fuel cell vehicle, FCREEV concept, (Fuel-Cell Range-Extended Electric Vehicle) is a 'stop-gap solution' until such time that long-range electric cars can accelerate recharging and/or a proper hydrogen refuelling network is built. Is that correct?

Our FCREEV Concept demonstrates how we are looking into the future, specifically addressing the challenge for, on the one hand. electric vehicles and on the other hand, instead of a range extender to have an extended fuel cell. We have been developing fuel cell technology for some time as we have completed some projects with OEMs. This is not a vehicle that we see put into production soon but rather a technology carrier for our capabilities at Magna Steyr looking into future zero emission solutions.

So FCREEV is really all about a 'shop front' to showcase Magna Steyr skills?

Yes. Because we have the unique combination of complete vehicle engineering capability with production capabilities as a contract manufacturer. We are now pairing these capabilities with real innovations in terms of propulsion systems and newly-acquired businesses like Telemotive.

In what ways has Telemotive expanded Steyr's engineering service product portfolio?

Telemotive is a German-based software engineering company with 500 engineers. It gives us exposure to vehicle connectivity, HMI [human machine interface] and infotainment. So, our existing strong engineering footprint, mainly in Europe but also in China and India, is now garnished with additional resources for software engineering.

Magna is very decentralised so we do not totally integrate newly acquired businesses immediately. They smoothly merge into our organisation. The reason for that is that we do not want to destroy something that is existing. So, on acquiring a business, we set about integrating parts of that business where it is necessary and leave the rest with the purpose of extracting the maximum value in order to benefit both Magna and our customers.

We understand that Magna Steyr is to build a car factory in Slovenia. Could you update us on that at all?

Our Graz facility's booked business is already near full capacity. We will add a paint shop in Slovenia, not a complete car factory, and use all of the synergies from the paint shop in Graz to benefit both. The distance between the two sites is just 65 kilometres.

We believe that Magna Steyr is to build the new JLR I-Pace, starting next year at its facility in Graz, Austria. Could you add a little colour as to the considerations and planning that goes into preparing for such a major new production launch?

We are very proud about the award we have received from JLR.  We are now the fifth place in the world that will complete an electric car, based on its own platform, Also, the technology in this car is very much advanced. With our capability, not only for conventional combustion engines cars but we will now add a new era in Graz building electric vehicles on its own platform.

Any thoughts on how Brexit could affect Magna Steyr's UK operations?

Most of our plants [5 facilities] in the UK are producing components that are sold to UK customers. At the moment we see no immediate effects on our business in Great Britain. It is too early to comment on possible future impact and anything further would be speculation at this point. As a global operating company, Magna is prepared to adapt to all economic and political changes.

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