Four questions for Thomas Brexeler.

Carl. At the last International Automotive-Meeting in Berlin, you successfully impressed visitors with an interesting event program once again. Why did a major German bank participate?

BECHEM is not involved in finance –  yet (laughs). Much like BECHEM, large banks are dependent on the development of certain key markets, so they are interested in our market perspectives. The lecture “Future technologies and challenges in the automotive industry” by a high-ranking expert team of Deutsche Bank fit our concept perfectly and enhanced the strategic aspect of the event.

Carl. Electromobility and autonomous driving were topics at the meeting, too. Are you anticipating major changes in the near future?

If you have a look at the Carl feature on autonomous driving (Level 5, page 6), you will find that opinions vary widely. There is still a great deal of uncertainty. At the same time, the automotive sector – or, more accurately, the IT sector – is making enormous leaps with in-car computers, and we can expect things to change rather quickly here. I think that the 30-year estimate is too pessimistic. The cars might be ready sooner than society. But a more or less distinct change of mindset can already be observed in the younger generation, the so-called digital natives. Some novice drivers are keen to learn driving in a car with manual transmission, while others are eagerly awaiting transmission-less, self-driving electric vehicles. These “drivers” may prefer looking at their smartphone or tablet, rather than the road.

Carl. À propos e-cars. When do you think electromobility will make considerable progress? Promotional measures have not come to fruition yet. There has been more talk about an e-quota.

There is great pressure for change in the industry, exerted both by politicians and the change of attitudes towards green technologies in our society. The EU Commission has initiated infringement procedures for exceeded thresholds in several cities in Germany with a view to the nitrogen oxide output of diesel vehicles. Countries with an enormous motorization and market potential are introducing e-quotas. This puts a lot of pressure on the diesel, even though it is in a completely different position in terms of its use of resources and the CO2 issue. The latest events are certain to give a significant boost to the development towards new drive concepts and their market penetration.

Carl. Are you concerned about this shift?

Commodities such as conventional engine oil and transmission oil, both of which are suffering from lower demand as a result of this transition, are not business segments of BECHEM. Certain automotive applications, e.g. in the fields of starters or drives, will be dropped completely, but there will be new applications to replace them. The special lubricants that BECHEM uses for the interior and chassis parts of cars with combustion engines of all categories are required just the same in electric cars. Perhaps even more: the overall quieter soundscape will 46 make noise more conspicuous. Again, some mechanical components such as switches will be replaced  with no-maintenance touchscreens. BECHEM has had to reinvent itself and adapt to major changes several times since 1834. Our Performance Fluids business unit, which works e.g. with cooling lubricants for the metalworking sector, will be  under greater pressure to adapt. The entire supply industry will have to be ready for increasing changes. The use of electrically driven vehicles instead of conventional burners reduces the number of engine parts involves from 2,000 to 200 components, approximately. Demand for traditional metal cutting will fall correspondingly. This is offset by great growth potential in the field of wire products inherent to electric drives, however – demand for high-performance wire transmission media and forming products.

Thomas Brexeler
Director Special Lubricants