“2018 was not a particularly inspiring year, but it was a very important one in terms of strategic decision making for Webasto,” explained Dr. Holger Engelmann, Chairman of the Management Board of Webasto SE, during the automotive supplier’s annual press conference in Munich.
Sales generated by the Webasto Group in 2018 were – for the first time following four years of growth – slightly below the previous year’s level, at 3.4 billion euros (at the previous year’s level after adjusting for currency effects). Of this, sales of sunroofs, panorama and convertible roofs accounted for 2.8 billion euros (82 percent), sales of heating and cooling solutions accounted for almost 600 million euros (17 percent) and sales by the Start-up Division accounted for almost 20 million euros (one percent) – which is primarily attributable to the charging solution business. Viewed on a regional level, 42 percent of Webasto Group sales in 2018 were attributable to Asia, 41 percent to Europe and 17 percent to the Americas. For the first time sales in Asia were slightly higher than the sales generated in Europe. The reason for this is the continuing growth of the company in China: Here, bucking the market trend, it has been possible to increase sales by more than six percent to over 1.2 billion euros.
During financial year 2018, strengthening the technological leadership in order to secure the strategic development over the long term was the primary aim. For instance, 271 million euros was spent on research & development, representing an increase of 16.5 percent compared with the previous year. These expenses primarily flowed into product development for battery systems, charging stations and electric heating, strengthening the mechatronics expertise and activities relating to advanced engineering in all business units. In the context of the long-term future direction, investments in buildings and plants also increased. Overall, the Webasto Group made investments amounting to 248 million euros – 40 percent greater than 2017. These investments were concentrated on the establishment and expansion of production capacities in all regions – in both the core business and in the new business areas.
“As we announced last year, we are investing a total of 600 million euros into our strategic development within three years,” said Engelmann, confirming the long-term direction of the group of companies. “In the first year we already made advance payments amounting to some 210 million euros.” Due to the high level of investment in the future, the profit margin of 5.9 percent was below last year’s level (7.1 percent), following several years of growth.
The number of employees has risen by a good five percent compared with last year. “In the course of our strategic development we are also investing in the establishment and expansion of key professional skills,” emphasized Engelmann. Most of our new colleagues are working in the new fields of business, are strengthening the company’s expertise in the area of electronics or are contributing to capacity expansion in the area of roof systems, particularly in Mexico and China.
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