The Graz powertrain developer, AVL List GmbH, increased sales in the past financial year 2019 by 12.6 percent from 1.75 to 1.97 billion euros. However, due to the Corona crisis, no forecast can currently be made for 2020, said CEO Helmut List in an interview with APA. Around 33 percent of Austrian employees were registered for short-time work.
2019 was a good year for AVL, which now has around 11,500 employees worldwide, including 4,300 in Graz: “We continued our activities well, expanded them technologically and brought them to a strong industrial base,” said List. While in the past the company mainly focused on drives, today the drives are integrated into the vehicle. ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and autonomous driving have become important cornerstones in the company’s portfolio. Sales growth of 12.6 percent is over ten percent for the sixth time in a row: “This is a very continuous development,” emphasized List.
List emphasized the possibilities of the integrated open development platform provided by the AVL: It allows “to integrate all development tools and architectures in such a way that we can move freely in the interaction of simulation, test results and emulation.” The digitalization of the development process has always been very important in the company, which is now an advantage in times of the corona crisis. With virtual test benches – initially without the physical construction of engines or prototypes – important performance levels can be realized in advance, which is a great advantage, especially in times of travel restrictions.
Around 1,700 employees in the Austrian subsidiaries were registered for short-time work, while 60 percent of all employees switched to home office. The rest of the work continues in the company – for example in production or in the laboratories. There is emphasis on “social distancing”, cleanliness and increasingly masks. AVL had already gained experience for Austria from China, formed a crisis team early on and responded quickly with measures. “We saw the development up close,” said the CEO. In China, where AVL has around 800 employees, 60 of them in Wuhan, not a single employee has contracted the corona virus. In Graz, on the other hand, there were employees who tested positive for Covid-19. List emphasized that none of them were infected in the company.
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Business during and after the crisis was more difficult to assess: “We started the new year with a reasonable order backlog, although the economic environment was not particularly strong, but it was within the limits. Now the order backlog is still reasonable, but it is unclear How the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) will act in the coming months. How many orders are coming in is more difficult to predict. Some OEMs have temporarily closed production, but in many cases the development departments continue to work and are well responsive to projects. ” Some customers would continue to order, some went on hold for a short time.
“Exactly what we are now experiencing with our customers can only be partially cushioned with the Corona short-time work,” said List. The model is flexible and adaptable, as needed. “In addition to the AVL teams in the countries on site, the expertise of the specialists from Graz is required on occasion, who support our on-site teams, for example for commissioning, via online instructions, i.e. remote support.” The customer appreciates that.
List is certain: “The world will change as a result of the corona crisis.” A lot more is being done online and virtually and that works, as you can see now. He mostly works from home – with video conferencing. He generally finds more conversations and can even bring something positive to the situation in terms of collaboration: “But the business uncertainty is there.” At the same time, there is “a high degree of solidarity in the company, and I am deeply grateful to the employees for this”.
The export share of the globally active AVL group remained at 96 percent in 2019, and around 10 percent of sales was again invested in research and development. In addition to the big issue of batteries, List sees a future market in battery-electric drives, hybrid and fuel cell drives, which all use electrical axes or electrified transmissions.
The CEO is satisfied with the development of the Austrian subsidiaries – especially with AVL DiTest, which has developed an “excellent position in the European market”. Piezocryst Advanced Sensorics continues to develop sensors for Formula 1, among others, and is strong “in association” with the AVL mother, but is also increasingly trying to position itself on the market. (apa / red)
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