TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Automotive supplier Robert Bosch has been developing technologies since its eponymous founder invented a low-voltage vehicle ignition device more than a century ago.
Since then, it has expanded to refrigerators, power tools, security systems and auto parts. But in recent years, Bosch has begun to rethink not only what it sells, but how it sells it.
"The reality is, Bosch has transitioned into an IoT company," Paul Thomas, executive vice president of sales for Bosch in North America, said Wednesday at the seminars. "We view our business with a new perspective. We no longer take a component, put it in the market and hope people buy it. We have to know what society wants."
And what society wants, he said, are more connected services and systems. The company, which ranks No.1 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $49.53 billion in fiscal 2018, offers more than 25 mobility services.
That includes the ride-sharing SPLT, a Detroit startup that Bosch acquired last year. SPLT is a carpooling service that universities or companies use to organize rides for students and employees. The system connects people to economic activity.
"You can take people from rural areas and bring them into where the jobs are," Thomas said. "We've seen some successes, especially when you incentivize people to learn to share."
Such services will supplement Bosch's traditional auto business, which has fallen this year. The supplier late last month revised its forecast for global automotive production, saying it expects a 5 percent decline this year, bigger than an earlier estimate of a 3 percent decline. As a result, Bosch no longer expects to achieve an earnings before interest and taxes margin of 7 percent, as it did last year, executives have said.