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By absorbing the German Hella, Forvia, the former Faurecia, is trying to diversify away from its historical businesses

Absolute black. Then the space lights up, revealing a road, an unexpected vision in this industrial building. The track stretches out, first over a few tens of meters, then further and further, more and more comfortably, more and more precisely depending on the technologies and generations of headlights used (halogen, xenon, LED) . Here we are at the “Lichtkanal”, the light tunnel of Hella, the German automotive supplier taken over at the beginning of the year by the French Faurecia, which changed its name on this occasion, becoming Forvia.

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The Lichtkanal is a unique research center in Europe, located in western Germany, in Lippstadt, a quiet town where Hella has its headquarters. Four hundred meters of road tunnel intended to test the brand’s innovations in automotive lighting, such as the ability of the headlights to project on the asphalt, in front of the car, the image of a flake of ice when the sensors detect black ice. This equipment symbolizes what Hella is : a high-end manufacturer of headlights and electronic parts, a company bought for 5.7 billion euros in August 2021 and which is now fully integrated into the new group.

In a few days, Wednesday 1er June, Patrick Koller, the CEO of Forvia, will present this gem to its shareholders at its general meeting. And he will try to convince them that his strategy is the right one. The ex-Faurecia is playing big with this purchase. The leading French automotive supplier, and now seventh in the world, has broken the bank to finally manage to diversify in a major way outside of its historical businesses.

Diversification

“Yann de la Brière, the predecessor of Patrick Koller, put Faurecia back on its feet by reorganizing the activity into three major areas: exhaust systems, seats, and interiors, in other words the dashboard, says a consultant. The first is ultra-profitable but has no future with the disappearance of the heat engine. The other two will not disappear but have limited growth prospects. »

So Mr. Koller, who became boss of Faurecia in July 2016, has continued to diversify. He tried the adventure of hydrogen by launching into ultra-secure tanks, as on his site in Bavans (Doubs), which traditionally manufactures depollution devices for heat engines, and by joining forces three years ago. years at Michelin, in the fuel cell manufacturer Symbio. Above all, the boss has multiplied the acquisitions in a kind of headlong rush to get out of his traditional “business” and put, according to his expression, “software at all levels”. It will be the French start-up Parrot (infotainment) for 100 million euros, the German SAS (complex electronic modules for dashboards) at 200 million, the Japanese Clarion (automotive electronics) paid 1 billion euros.

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