Spanish mirror supplier Ficosa is trying to turn its broad range of customers and narrow product specialization into a growth strategy.
It's a tough position. Most suppliers strive for a big customer list to reduce their vulnerability against losing major clients. Medium-sized Ficosa has many customers. But that also means Ficosa must defend each contract against competitors - and pitch new products to many potential buyers.
One example is a new rear-view mirror equipped with a digital blind-spot detector that Ficosa is developing. It is negotiating with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen to equip several future models with the system. And at the Barcelona auto show last month, Ficosa executives met with purchasing managers from Seat, Audi and DaimlerChrysler to demonstrate the new system.
Company insiders say Opel has asked Ficosa to develop the mirror system for Opel parent company General Motors for US vehicles, but that PSA is likely to be first.
The system uses a tiny digital camera with an integrated image-processing device located in side mirrors. It detects any vehicle inside the so-called blind spots of the car - behind and to the left or right, and warns drivers visually and audibly.
Similarly, Ficosa is negotiating with four unnamed automakers on an auto de-icing system that can defrost a windshield by generating a 65-degree hot water spray within a minute of engine ignition.
Barcelona-based Ficosa lost E2 million in 2001, but has fought back.
Ficosa is developing new products with higher technology content, expanding its customer base and moving some manufacturing into lower-wage countries such as India, China and Romania. Last year, revenue rose 6.6 percent to 711 million, and Ficosa turned a E12.4 million profit. Since 1999, sales have grown from 600 million.
In June, Ficosa will open a 3.5 million research and development center in Mollet del Valles, near Barcelona, said Gabriel Gonzalez, marketing manager.
In November, Ficosa opened a new mirror and washer system factory in India, a joint venture with Tata. Indian customers include Ashok Leyland, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Kinetic, Mahindra and Mahindra, Meritor and Tata.
Ficosa opened a joint-venture plant in China with Shanghai Benyuan and a joint-venture plant in Romania with SC UAMT to supply parts for two new Dacias.