Pilkington Automotive is the world market leader in automotive glass. It had sales of £1.18 billion, or about $1.9 billion at current exchange rates, in 1997-98. Automotive News Europe's Edmund Chew talked to Roger Thomas, group vice president of marketing and business development.
What is new in your sector?
The big thing is reflective windshields. If you look at a Renault Megane, you can see the windshield appears to be a pink color. That is because of a metallic film which reflects infrared energy from the sun. Renault is strong on innovation. They are taking these windshields in huge quantities - we're talking hundreds of thousands of units.
What are the advantages?
Reflective windshields keep heat from entering the vehicle. This makes for a more pleasant driving environment and reduces the load on air-conditioning systems. This is particularly useful in small vehicles, where you have packaging and power problems. Next year we are opening a line in Italy with a capacity of nearly a million units.
What about cost pressures?
It is very difficult to find improvements. We have to look at how we design the glazing and how we attach the glazing to the vehicle.
How are carmakers' demands changing?
There is a growing interest in innovation. The other trends are outsourcing and subcontracting. Ford is very much the leader here. We are increasingly being asked to supply the glass with all the attachments fitted.