Webasto is not your typical Chinese maker of auto parts. Technically, it is a German exporter of quality sun roofs and roofing systems, but its success and its future is being defined in China, where every third Volkswagen and every fifth BMW car is sold.
The small family firm based in southern Germany makes roof systems for autos – sun roofs and retractable roofs for convertibles – and has a sales volume of €2.5 billion ($3.3 billion). Thanks in large part to demand from China, Webasto aims to double its sales over the next few years.
The auto market is expanding rapidly in China and buyers want all the latest accessories from leather seats to sound systems to convertibles and cars with sun roofs. “Sun roofs and panorama roofs are a must-have in China,” said Holger Engelmann, Webasto’s chief executive. By 2018, he expects €1 billion in sales to come from the Chinese market. “We have the orders to motor that growth,” he said. “Now we just have to deliver.”
Sunroofs have expanded to become a big business for Webasto, which started out making clothing hangers and metal car wheels. Many newer auto models now have roofs made entirely of glass. The industry rule of thumb is, the larger the car, the more glass in the roof.