Karl-Friedrich Stracke

Karl-Friedrich Stracke

Continuing just-auto's series of interviews with global component manufacturers, Matthew Beecham spoke to Karl-Friedrich Stracke, President Fahrzeugtechnik & Engineering of Magna Steyr about its MILA Blue concept, lightweight technologies and tomorrow's powertrain.

What is your view of the automotive industry at the moment; have we got through the recession properly or is it really a different recession to one perhaps that you've seen before?

I think right now we have a pretty stable global automotive vehicle production forecast. Certain markets are showing some positive signals. Starting with Europe, we see some growth opportunities this year. China has some good growth prospects as well as North America. According to IHS-Automotive, it looks like the overall passenger car production will reach 71 to 72 million this year again, representing good stable growth for the global car industry.

Do you think that we will see the Chinese automakers moving more forcefully into Europe?

The Chinese will come to Europe sooner or later but they first need to satisfy their own market before looking to export. Europe is on the forefront of what they want to do. For example, the Qoros brand recently received a five star EuroNCAP rating and clearly after fulfilling the Chinese customer requirements will export to or produce in Europe as well.

About 15 years ago, Magna was referred to in the press as a 0.5 tier supplier. I'm not sure if that's something you recognise today but how would you characterise the company now and its position in the automotive supply chain?

Magna International is focusing on technology and innovation in terms of components and systems and provides these to the automotive industry as a tier one supplier. Yes, our strategy is to continue car production for OEMs, such as Peugeot, Daimler, BMW and others. But we have no intention to go with our own brand or anything like that.

What are you using this year's Geneva show to highlight?

We are showing here the MILA Blue, which is a concept vehicle. The idea behind it is to demonstrate affordable lightweight technology for OEMs and display Magna International's complete vehicle and component expertise. Our concept showcases how our solutions can provide new CO2 opportunities for OEMs through, for instance, the extent to which we can blend high strength steel, aluminium and composite material in a cost efficient way. Stocked with technologies from other Magna groups like the video system we have displayed on the vehicle, which replaces the outside mirrors, and an active grille shutter system that improves aerodynamics, the MILA Blue weighs no more than 670 kg and achieves a carbon footprint of less than 49g CO2 per kilometre.

Are some or any of those technologies or materials on the road today?

I think there is a clear roadmap in terms of lightweight materials and how an intelligent material mix will be applied to future vehicles. For example, the team from Magna's Cosma group can already provide the lightweight material mix chassis that we are presenting with the MILA Blue and thereby help OEMs to reduce the weight of the car. The real purpose of the [concept] car, however, is to show how we can provide systems and components to the automotive industry for the next generation of vehicles.

To what extent is there a premium that OEMs will pay for weight reduction?

In terms of what we see on the market this depends very much on the segment of vehicles. For example, mass produced segment A, B and C cars come with a per kg amount in the range of 2-5 Euro they generate for weight reduction, whereas a premium automaker may be willing to pay more.

In your opinion, what would power the average family sedan in 20 years' time?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's QUBE materials research service