For the Bosch Group, the 2018 business year was a successful one. The company increased its sales revenue to a record 78.5 billion euros.
Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) from operations reached 5.5 billion euros. In spite of heavy upfront investments in areas such as the electrification and automation of mobility, EBIT margin from operations improved again in 2018, rising from 6.8 percent in 2017 to 7.0 percent.
Bosch increased its expenditure on research and development to 7.3 billion euros, or 9.3 percent of sales revenue. Capital expenditure rose by 14 percent to 4.9 billion euros, or 6.3 percent of sales revenue. Bosch created almost 8,000 new jobs worldwide in 2018, more than half of them in research and development.
For the current year, Bosch expects economic developments to be subdued. The company forecasts that the global economy will grow by just 2.3 percent. Regardless of this short-term outlook, the Bosch Group is intensifying its efforts to combat climate change and improve air quality.
“Climate change is not science fiction; it’s really happening. If we are to take the Paris Agreement seriously, then climate action needs to be seen not just as a long-term aspiration. It needs to happen here and now,” said Dr. Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, at the company’s annual press conference. “We also take people’s concerns about clean air quality in cities very seriously. As an innovation leader, we want to deliver technological solutions to ecological problems.” Moreover, Denner noted, “Driving bans, diesel protests, yellow vests, and Friday climate strikes – all this shows that companies need to take climate action and offer new solutions for urban air quality, not least to stabilize the social climate.”
The company forecasts that roughly 75 percent of all new cars and light commercial vehicles will still be powered by an internal-combustion engine in 2030. In view of this, Bosch is continuing to invest considerable sums in optimizing gasoline and diesel engines. The company is also using artificial intelligence to further develop internal-combustion engines. As an example, Bosch is using AI to predictively control exhaust-gas treatment according to patterns drawn from individuals’ driving behavior, as this can further reduce vehicles’ emissions. Some 3,500 associates in the company’s exhaust-gas treatment and exhaust sensors units generated sales of 2.3 billion euros in 2018. This figure is set to reach 3 billion euros by 2025.
Electromobility: 14 million vehicles by end of 2022
Bosch also expects electric vehicles to play a major part in improving air quality in cities. In the emerging mass market for electromobility, Bosch is striving to become market leader.
By 2025, the company aims to generate 5 billion euros in sales with electromobility, ten times the figure for 2018. “In the growing competition for value creation in the powertrain technology domain, we see good opportunities ahead. Our systems know-how, our broad product portfolio, and economies of scale in manufacturing make us the partner of choice for vehicle manufacturers and mobility providers worldwide,” Denner said. Bosch powertrain components already feature in over a million electric cars around the world.
By the end of 2022, this number is set to rise to 14 million. To date, the company has carried out powertrain projects for 50 electric vehicle platforms. Last year alone saw 30 newly acquired projects.
“We also want to help fuel-cell technology make a breakthrough,” Denner said. To this end, Bosch recently announced an alliance with Powercell, a Swedish manufacturer of fuel-cell stacks. Such stacks make up two-thirds of the value of a fuel cell system. “Together with Powercell, we want to commercialize stacks and launch them by 2022 at the latest,” Denner said.
Automated driving: lower consumption and emissions
Automated driving will also play a part in improving air quality. According to the research firm KE Consult, automated driving can reduce fuel consumption by over 30 percent, and by 15 percent on German freeways. More than 5,000 Bosch engineers are now working on automated driving, almost twice as many as two years ago.
As Denner noted: “By 2022, we plan to have invested around 4 billion euros in automation and thus in sustainable mobility.” Driver assistance systems are contributing to growth on the path to automated driving. From current levels of around 2 billion euros, revenue is expected to increase by almost 15 percent this year. Sales of radar sensors are expected to grow by 20 percent, and sales of video sensors by 30 percent. Denner: “Automated driving is not just an area of future promise, it’s already a growth area for us today.”