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Toyota’s international growth is one factor driving the internationalisation of Aisin. Aisin is following the same path as Delphi and Visteon in diversifying its customer base and globalising its manufacturing footprint.

But while Delphi and in particular Visteon have struggled to reshape themselves as profitable independent companies, Aisin has enjoyed healthy margins and Toyota retains its ownership link.

The recent Paris Show also highlighted the growing customer diversification and international growth of Aisin, driven both by the needs of the Toyota Group and new technologies.

In Europe, Aisin had a turnover of €617m during the last fiscal year. It is looking to double this figure by 2008. Aisin is the eighth largest global supplier with a turnover of €12.3bn in fiscal year 203, based on an exchange rate of ¥130 to €1.

Aisin is made up of 128 companies owned integrally or in part by Aisin Seiki Co Limited, which is the official holding company – 24.6% owned by Toyota Moto r Corporation and 5.5% by Toyota Industries Corporation.

Financially Aisin is one of the most profitable suppliers with an EBITDA of €1.28bn in the last fiscal year, or a ratio of EBITDA to sales of 11.5%. Operating profits were €667.4m and net profit was €267.1m.

International growth
Toyota represents 65.9% of the sales of the Aisin group, but the customer base is widening. Sales to other OEMs grew by 29.7% during fiscal 2004, whereas sales to Toyota only rose by 7.3%. Visteon records around 74% of sales from Ford, and General Motors business generates over 60% of Delphi’s sales.

Aisin’s objective is to grow its international sales significantly, both for its new customers and to support progression of Toyota’s worldwide operations. Aisin made 24.7% of its sales outside of Japan during fiscal 2004, as opposed to 21.6% during the preceding year.

In North America Aisin had 17 manufacturing sites and, in fiscal 2004, had sales there of €1.49bn. The group’s objectiv e is to increase this to €1.79bn by fiscal 2007.

In Europe, the group has three research centres and three production sites. In the UK Aisin manufactures components for bodywork with 230 employees.

It also has a site in Belgium, where it produces electronic components with 150 employees, and in 2003 Aisin opened a site in the Czech Republic to produce engine components such as oil and water pumps. This Czech site, built on an area originally of 5,000 square metres, will be extended to 20,000 square metres by September 2005.

Global number two for automatic transmissions
Gearboxes constitute a strategic part of Aisin’s operations with 42% of the total activity of the group.   Aisin claims to be the number two in automatic transmissions with 4.1m units in 2003, the same as Ford.

Aisin was the first supplier to launch a six-speed automatic transmission for transverse engines; a gearbox chosen by Volkswagen in autumn 2002 for the new VW Beetle and the Audi T T sold on the American market.

PSA chose an Aisin transmission for the 407 V6, and the Citroën C6. GM Europe has ordered it for the new Opel Vectra/Signum to replace the five-speed automatic transmission used at present.

Aisin’s objective is to produce 4.5m automatic gearboxes by 2006 and more than 2m six-speed units a year by 2008. Aisin sees significant growth in automatic transmissions in Europe over the next ten years. “As it is more compact than our older five-speed model, this six-speed transmission can be fitted into smaller cars”, said Hiroshi Hashimoto, director at Aisin in France.

Like other gearbox suppliers, Aisin has bet on alternative transmission technologies too. It offers variable transmissions as well as robotised manual transmissions (on Toyota’s Yaris, and soon on the Corolla and Avensis).

Hashimoto reckons CVT suits petrol engines smaller than 1.6 litres. “Over and above that, CVT is less suitable”, he said.

The second major area of growt h for the group comes from the Advics brake systems alliance. Aisin holds 40% of its capital, Toyota, Sumitomo Electrics and Denso 20% each. Advics plans to become one of the three leading global suppliers in braking systems in 2005 with a market share of 15%.

Aisin is also a global leader in the market for navigation systems with a market share of 15%, or 710,000 systems sold. It aims to increase this to one million units by 2006.

And by combining image-processing technologies, Aisin offers lateral vision systems or lane departure warning systems. Earlier in 2004, Aisin and Toyota introduced the world’s first active parking system, Intelligent Park Assist, in the Japan-market Toyota Prius hybrid car.