in Germany, a gap is widening between manufacturers and subcontractors

The shock arrived in September 2021. Until then, thanks to government aid linked to Covid-19 and partial unemployment, the number of bankruptcies in industry had remained limited in Germany. But with the fall, four well-known automotive suppliers went into insolvency in quick succession: Bolta Werke, Heinze Gruppe, A-Kaiser and Emil Bucher. These medium-sized companies are some of the indirect victims of the great semiconductor crisis, which is shaking the sector. In the country, the number of these bankruptcies could accelerate in the coming months, observers believe.

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The Bolta Werke case, founded in 1921, 230 million euros in turnover, 1,000 employees, is significant of the vice that has tightened around these companies. The Bavarian group specializes in the production of decorative elements for automobiles, such as the four circles emblematic of the Audi brand. Due to the drastic drop in the number of units produced, orders were pushed back. “This caused a massive collapse in turnover, which could not be financially compensated”, explains the group. But when bankrupt Bolta Werke struggles to survive, Audi on its side…should post record profits in 2022.

In Germany, only 2.62 million vehicles were registered in 2021, the lowest level… since Reunification. “All the subcontractors have long-term agreements with fixed prices with the builders. Those who do not have sufficient financial reserves are in difficulty, analyzes Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of CAR, the automotive research center in Duisburg. The manufacturers themselves were able to compensate on the margins, which disappeared in volume. With the shortages, they reduced the discounts on the sale prices to almost zero, whereas they were often high in the past, which weighed on their profitability. »

Flattening requested

Top-of-the-range specialists such as Mercedes, Audi, BMW and Porsche have further increased this advantage by refocusing their offer on particularly profitable models. For subcontractors, who had counted on a sharper recovery in sales in 2021 after the terrible year 2020, crossing the desert is starting to be downright painful. The consulting firm AlixPartner has estimated the drop in turnover in 2021 in the global automotive industry at 180 billion euros. Equipment manufacturers who achieve between 50 million and 200 million in turnover, the last link in the automotive subcontracting chain, are directly threatened.

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