With production in 30 locations and a revenue approaching €4 billion, Webasto is among the 100 largest automotive suppliers worldwide. The originally German company is notably market leader in the production of openable car rooftop systems. “We produced the very first panoramic roofs, and introduced the first glass sunroofs for the automotive industry,” says Jan Henning Mehlfeldt, Executive Vice President Roof Europe at Webasto. “Initially conceived to bring more light and comfort into cars, fixed and openable panoramic roofs are now central for developing and implementing new innovative features. It is also the perfect place to integrate camera, radar or lidar sensors, for example. As the market leader, we want to be at the forefront of this field of innovation.”
Car rooftop innovation: Acquiring technology, know-how and skills
Glass is obviously a central element for integrated car rooftop innovation, and Webasto found the capabilities it was looking for in Carlex Luxembourg, one of the key players of Luxembourg’s automotive industry. The facility produces both standard and advanced automotive glazing products, including new lightweight glass roof systems, very high-end windshields and backlights. “Carlex had the unique skills in laminated glass production that we were looking for,” Mr Mehlfeldt confirms. “The Luxembourg team has the capability of doing very precise bending and laminating of glass, needed for example for digital head-up displays. For us, this was the perfect fit for the integration of innovative features.”
I think Luxembourg is a very good place for companies focusing on innovation and added value.
Webasto acquired the facilities, now known as Webasto Luxembourg S.A., in summer 2022. “One major innovation that we expect to see in the near future is switchable, smart glazing with the capacity to darken or brighten up at the push of a button. This requires very special laminated film and electronics, and the capacity to integrate these innovations in a 3D-shaped roof. Other major fields of car rooftop innovation concern new ways of providing impressive light scenarios and the integration of solar cells between two laminated glass panels. With this acquisition, we are confident that we have gained the technology, know-how and skills needed to stay on top of these developments.”
Having a new site in Luxembourg brings several advantages. “I think Luxembourg is a very good place for companies focusing on innovation and added value,” comments Mr Mehlfeldt. “We have access to highly educated people, an attractive location in the centre of Europe and a government that is supportive of industry. The plant is already extensively innovative, and Luxembourg is a good place to be for the manufacturing of high-end products. We are quite proud to have purchased the experience and history of this production unit.”
A competence centre for smart glazing
Webasto now plans to invest further in its Luxembourg facilities. “We will for sure expand our production capacity. Just the sheer size of the products that we will manufacture in the future means that we need new machines that can produce even bigger roofs,” Mr Mehlfeldt points out.
A place like Luxembourg is the perfect spot to develop the skills we need for the future.
But the ambitions don’t stop there: the company plans to turn Luxembourg into its global centre of competence for smart glazing. “We want to make sure that our production and development teams work closely together so that they stay connected and keep learning from each other. A place like Luxembourg, where this is possible, is the perfect spot to develop the skills we need for the future.”
Photo: Webasto Group