TOKYO -- The miniature motors that make iPhones buzz on silent helped power Japan's Nidec to become a $14 billion company.
In recent years, Nidec’s founder Shigenobu Nagamori has turned his attention to autos, and a technology that turns electricity stored in the battery into propulsion power.
This technology, called an e-axle or e-drive, is emerging as a new competitive front as the auto industry shifts to electric vehicles. By 2030, Nagamori says he wants a 35 percent slice of a global e-axle market that is forecast to be worth $20-30 billion a year by then, up from an estimated $2.8-$3 billion now.
He is betting that electric cars will follow the same route as room aircons, washing machines and computers, with key components, such as motor systems and central processing units, standardized and supplied by a few dominant tech firms.
“Laptops and aircons from different makers might look different outside, but you look inside, the (key) parts are all more or less the same. The gut technologies of EVs are going to become as commoditized or standardized” as these items, Nagamori told an earnings news conference earlier this year. E-axles and batteries will come from a few competitive suppliers, he predicted.
To ensure Nidec emerges as one of these suppliers, Nagamori, a no-nonsense 76-year-old, has set his sights on acquiring gear-maker JATCO from Nissan Motor Co. and combining it with Nidec's motor and power-control electronics business.
Some details of this effort, which Nissan is resisting, are reported here for the first time. The takeover battle underscores how quickly electrification is reshaping the auto industry.
“Nidec brings to the auto industry the tech industry’s approach,” says Daiwa Securities analyst Shiro Sakamaki. “Like cell-phones and laptops, car models are already being redesigned at an increasingly rapid pace, and Nagamori is betting that trend will accelerate and automakers are going to leave the development and manufacturing of technologies such as the e-axle to suppliers.”
Nagamori declined to be interviewed for this article. Nidec declined to comment about its pursuit of JATCO.