German automotive supplies manufacturer Webasto is benefiting from a growing Chinese demand for cars with sunroofs, the company told press on Monday.
"Around one third of Webasto's revenue -- around one billion out of 3.5 billion euros (4.34 billion U.S. dollars) last year -- are now recorded in China," Webasto chief executive officer (CEO) Holger Engelmann said.
The Munich-based automotive supplier produces sunroofs for major car makers including Volkswagen, Volvo and Ferrari. While around every third vehicle in the world had some form of sliding or panoramic roof, the percentage in China is 40 percent.
"The Chinese love large car roofs which can be opened. Demand keeps growing in general and additionally we are profiting from a shift in consumer taste from smaller to larger sunroofs," Engelmann explained.
As a consequence, Webasto is scheduled to open its 10th Chinese factory in Guangzhou in south China on Wednesday and will begin constructing its 11th one shortly thereafter. Last year, the company produced 6.2 million roofs for German, South Korean, Japanese and American car makers in China.
Webasto already employs 3,000 staff in China, including 200 engineers working in research and development in Shanghai, compared to 3,800 employees stationed in Germany.
Engelmann pointed out that the large head count in China was important in order to be close to local customers. He noted, however, that the bulk of the company's innovation work was still undertaken in Germany.
Unlike other foreign car makers which are legally obliged to form joint ventures with local partners in China to gain access to its manufacturing infrastructure and domestic market, Webasto is the sole proprietor of its automotive supplies factories in the country. According to Engelmann, there were no obstacles whatsoever faced by the company in opening new plants, and the process was easier and faster than in Europe or the United States.
Having mainly focused on the production of sliding and panoramic roofs, heating and cooling systems, and convertible roofs so far, Webasto announced its intentions to venture into battery production for electric vehicles in the future.
The CEO emphasized that Webasto had the necessary expertise in industrial process management that would enable it to assist car makers that do not want to develop their own batteries for the New Energy Vehicle (NEV).