Number one national industry

Slovenian automotive industry remains the main driver of the country’s economy: it contributes around 10 percent of Slovenia’s gross domestic product and one fifth of its exports. The total annual revenues of some 200 Slovenian automotive companies reach almost 4 billion euros. Many of these companies belong to the tier 1 supplier of major European car brands.

ACSEE’s (Automotive Clusters - Southeastern Europe) analysis of the industry in the region published two years ago describes Slovenian automotive industry as “highly competitive”: even though wages in other Central European (let alone Southeastern European) countries are lower, Slovenian automotive companies successfully compete against their peers in these countries with high technology, innovation and highly skilled employees. The report describes Slovenia’s R&D and engineering capacities as the most advanced in the region by far. The new director of the Slovenian automotive cluster ACS Tatjana Mohorič plays this competitive aspect down a bit. On CEE Automotive Forum in Prague last fall she stressed that “we don’t want to compete with everybody and in everything”, but rather “connect and cooperate”.

Mohorič also explained at the forum that the 60 ACS members are increasingly focusing on future forms of mobility, including autonomous and electric vehicles. Companies like Hidria, Kolektor, Domel and Mehle (former Iskra Avtoelektrika) are already strong players in the field of electric motors and hybrid drives. Kolektor is a leading global producer of commutators, an essential part of electromotors. Hidria controls 30 percent of the European market in core solutions for hybrid and electrical powertrains. Its components are used in Peugeot, Fiat, Mercedes and Smart electric and hybrid cars, among others. Its laminated electric motor core is used in the Porsche Spyder 918 hybrid sports car which has a top speed of 340 kilometers per hour and reaches 100 kilometers per hour in 2.8 seconds. Despite its brute force, Porsche’s hybrid uses only 3.3 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers - thanks in part to Hidria’s solutions.

Hidria is now trying to bring together various international research institutions, corporations, and universities by establishing an innovation center for mobility research in the town of Koper. The initiative is called Project Edison - Hidria already has several its own institutes and research and development centers. The company’s innovations collect national and international awards - like for example its smart cold start diesel engine system Optymus: a crucial innovation which secured Hidria’s 30 percent global market share in diesel cold start systems. Of course, Hidria is not the only innovative automotive supplier coming from Slovenia. Take for example Novo mesto based company TPV. Its highly innovative automatic guided vehicle has a large potential in industrial logistics. If we add SMEs: Elaphe Propulsion Systems is the global leader in in-wheel electric drive systems. The solution got a lot of attention in China: Zheijiang Asia Pacific Mechanical and Electronic Company (APG) invested 10 million euros in Elaphe recently. APG is the leading Chinese maker of ABS braking systems - Elaphe’s in-wheel drive solution could perfectly complement APG’s program. 

Later Elaphe got attention (and funds) from the European Commission - yet Elaphe’s move has another more indirect importance. There’s almost no car coming from the European factories without at least one part produced - if not developed - in Slovenia. And these factories include most prestigious brands like Bentley and Lamborghini. In order to expand Slovenia’s automotive producers, have to look at more distant markets like China or Japan. It is no coincidence that this year’s most important joint presentation of Slovenian automotive industry - organized by the public agency SPIRIT Slovenia - took place in Japan.  

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