Autoliv ups focus on fast-growing active safety business

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Autoliv, the world's largest maker of seat belts and airbags, is restructuring to focus more on its fast-growing, high-margin active safety business -- including radar, night vision and front-view cameras.

The Swedish partsmaker will create two business units: Passive Safety for seat belts, airbags and similar components and Electronics for its active safety products. Results will be published for each division starting in the first quarter of 2015.

Autoliv expects the overall global market for active safety products to grow at a compound annual rate of 29 percent to 2.8 billion by 2016 from 1.3 billion in 2013.

Having spent $27 million on active safety-related acquisitions since 2010, Autoliv's sales of the products quadrupled from $85 million in 2010 to $345 million last year. In the first six months this year Autoliv's active safety sales jumped a further 52 percent to 225 million euros, putting it ahead of its target of $500 million sales by 2015.

Autoliv also has a target of achieving an 8 percent to 9 percent margin on active safety sales of within the next two to three years.

"The important thing in active safety now is to be very well positioned, by ourselves and with OEMs, to capture the rapid growth in this sector," Thomas Jonsson, Autoliv's vice president of communications, told Automotive News Europe in a phone interview. "Ultimately this market will consolidate and we see it as a strength that we have a broad portfolio of approaches that cover all the sensing systems."

Active safety systems, he added, is "a real game-changer," not least because it will play an important part in the development of autonomous vehicles of the future. The ways in which active safety and autonomous vehicles will evolve is unpredictable, Jonsson said, which is why having an active strategy encompassing all sensing approaches is important right now.

Autoliv has been the dominant global player in passive safety for years, claiming in its latest annual report it has a market share of 37 percent in the sector compared with 20 percent for Takata and 17 percent for TRW, which rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

The active safety market is much more fragmented and includes sector leader Continental as well as Robert Bosch, Delphi, Valeo, Gentex, Magna, Hella, TRW, Denso and Panasonic. Autoliv says it ranks No. 2 in the sector, with a share of more than 20 percent.

In addition to the separation of production into two divisions Autoliv is also creating two new global functional units, Sales & Engineering and Product & Process Development. This is a significant change for a company with 59,000 employees working in about 80 facilities in 29 countries, including 17 development and engineering centers and 21 test tracks.

"A stronger global organization will help drive our effectiveness in product and process development, while a combined sales and application engineering function together with a global, well integrated passive safety organization, will serve our customers even better," Jonsson said. "Combining all our electronics competence and resources will allow us to put further focus on this important growth area."

Autoliv ranks No. 19 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $8.8 billion in 2013.

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