BMW and Volkswagen are each considering buying shares of carbon-fiber manufacturer SGL Carbon, in bids to control the manufacturer. Carbon fiber will be increasingly important for small electric cars planned by both BMW and Volkswagen.
Volkswagen is reportedly planning on increasing its stake in SGL from 8.2 percent to 15 or 16 percent, while BMW is said to be considering buying up to a 20-percent share in SGL. The moves would allow each company to have considerable sway in SGL’s future business decisions.
The move to control a carbon fiber manufacturer is important as both companies angle to build more lightweight, efficient vehicles from the material. BMW has already disclosed that carbon fiber for its forthcoming i3 electric city car will be produced at an SGL facility in Moses Lake, Washington. Volkswagen hopes to use carbon fiber for the body and most of the structure for the XL1, a tiny car designed to return as much as 261 mpg.
BMW gained a blocking majority of SGL Carbon shares earlier this year when BMW board member Susanne Klatten bought a 27.3-percent stake of the company, which was expected to grow to a 29 percent share by the end of 2011. Hypothetically, that could allow BMW to exert pressure on SGL to favor BMW or exclude other automakers – including VW.
Using carbon fiber for electric vehicles keeps weight low, allowing for a greater driving range with smaller batteries. The lightweight material weighs about 50 percent less than steel. SGL Group, parent company of SGL Carbon, reported sales of €1.38 million (about $1.9 million) last year, of which 16 percent was accounted for by carbon fiber and composites production.
Source: Automotive News