In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with Martin Kölbel, senior key account manager for Flabeg Holding GmbH about the company’s rearview mirrors.

just-auto: Could you give us a little more background on how Flabeg’s rearview mirror business is organised?

Martin Kölbel: Flabeg is a leader in glass technology. To reduce the blind-spot in future mirror systems, the tolerances in glass bending [are being] reduced dramatically for convex and aspheric mirrors. Flabeg is introducing a new mirror glass to reduce the blind spot similar to the European known mirror systems.

What is Flabeg’s turnover for rearview mirrors and how it is split between interior and exterior?

EUR100m with exterior rearview mirrors accounting for 80% of turnover.

What is your geographical split in mirror sales?

  • 20% Asian market
  • 20% NAFTA market
  • 60% European market

We would also like to get a better understanding of Flabeg’s entry and presence in the emerging economies. How is your business shaping up in some of the emerging markets?

Flabeg is globally represented, China, India, US, Brazil, Hungary, France, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic. We [have a foothold in] every interesting market if the potential is available.

The humble rearview mirror is being transformed into a high tech hub of auto electronics. What else can we expect to see packaged into either the exterior and interior rearview mirror?

Exterior mirrors: Camera systems or radar systems for blind spot detection will become a standard. Antennae will be integrated because car designers do not like the standard roof top antenna.

Interior mirrors: Camera systems to check if the driver is tired might be implemented. Also monitors that show camera images during backwards driving will become popular.

Could you give us an idea of what other technologies or features is Flabeg working on which show potential for long term revenue and profit growth?

Flabeg has just introduced the flat-aspheric mirror to the US market. It consists of an inner flat area that shows the field of view as requested by regulations and an outer area that is bent aspherically to eliminate the blind spot. The aspheric curve was chosen as for the European market. Up to now the combination of a flat and a bent part in a single piece mirror was not possible. The advantages of this mirror against an additional spotter mirrors are the compatibility with standard backing plates and standard heaters. Also the price is lower.

We are also trying to penetrate the market with GControl, our low glare mirror.  It reduces glare at night significantly.

The auto dimming mirror market has shown phenomenal growth over the last decade. In volume terms, how big are you expecting this market to grow? When will it plateau?

[As we see it,] the exterior auto-dimming market will not have a further growth as the market is turning to lighter and smaller cars in future and as the OEM has been decided to implement the exterior dimming mirror for driver side only in future. For the interior mirror, we see a slightly increasing market by about 10-15% within the next two years.

Will ‘mirrorless cars’ ever become a reality? What are the factors holding this camera technology back? I guess the consumer needs to feel comfortable with the technology, too.

At the moment, OEMs do not spend too much time and money on camera systems because the regulations still do not permit to use cameras to replace the main mirrors. This will change in Europe within the next [few] years. In addition, a team was set up to define standard specifications of camera/monitor systems, which will also take some years.

Finally, a mirror image contains some sort of 3D information: If the driver moves the head, the field of vision changes. A camera image is fixed and lacks that kind of additional information.

See also: INTERVIEW: Q&A with Gentex

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