Interview with our main sponsor: Punch Powertrain
Punch Powertrain is the main sponsor of the Punch Powertrain Solar Team. Together with CEO Cor Van Otterloo and COO Marc de Wind we discuss the growth of their company and the choice to sponsor Punch Powertrain Solar Team.
Independence as the main advantage
Punch Powertrain is the largest independent producer of CVT transmissions in the world. This is seen as one of the main advantages that Punch Powertrain has in the market according to de Wind: “A lot of transmission producers are bound to one single car brand or part of a brand to which they can sell their transmissions. This makes it hard for them to expand to other car brands since the brand with which they have a contract, does not like their competition to have the same transmission in their car. This slows down the growth of a company. Due to our independent status as a company we do not have this problem. For us all our clients are equal and for all our clients we are an independent supplier.”
From ups and downs to a success story
The history of Punch Powertrain has known its ups and downs. Punch Powertrain started of as a part of DAF where the transmissions were made. After three years the factory was taken over by Volvo in 1975, but know only a minimal production. The first upward stream came when Punch Powertrain could deliver the transmissions for BMW’s new Mini. To do this, the company was taken over by ZF in 1998. In 2006 the deliveries of CVT’s to Mini stopped when BMW changed the motors and transmissions in their cars. With the coming of the current CEO Cor Van Otterloo, Punch Powertrain new a large revival in the sector. Van Otterloo: While we were making 30.000 transmissions a year in 2006, we are currently almost making 30.000 transmissions a month!”
Van Otterloo came with a new strategy for the company: “with the moderate reputation of CVT’s in Europe, we knew that we did not have a chance in the European market. With the word CVT everybody was thinking about the stereotype old-fashioned DAF cars. So we decided to focus our attention on the Asian Market where automatics knew a large boom. Because of our success, we opened a new assembly factory in Nanjing in 2008 for our CVT’s. However, all key components are being made in Sint-Truiden, and this will continue to be so since here we have the know-how to make them. It still is a formula for success, as the company has known a strong growth. This year alone, we employed 150 extra people. I think we are one of the few companies in Belgium that know such a large growth in these difficult times.
The future is electric
According Marc de Wind, electrical cars will continue to become more popular. Punch Powertrain is therefore already preparing itself for the electrical era. “We see that electrical cars are the future,” de Wind says. However, electrical cars also mean electrical motors and more simple or even no transmission. Therefore we are already making the step towards the development of a hybrid CVT: a CVT combined with an electromotor and all steering electronics. Our R&D departments are continuously trying to make our transmissions more green and efficient to produce fewer emissions. We think to have the hybrid transmission ready within two years and at the same time a fully electric powertrain. And when I see the progress that our R&D department is making, we are in the good direction.”
Already a long cooperation with the Solar Team
This year Punch Powertrain is the main sponsor of the Solar Team. However, Punch Powertrain has already been supporting the team since 2011. “The idea to sponsor the Solar Team came from one of our employees, Saphir Faid,” Van Otterloo explains. “He was one of the founding members of the very first Solar Team and mentioned the idea of the sponsorships during one of our meetings and we were committed to help the team in their efforts. The first years we started off as silver sponsor, afterwards as co-sponsor and now we are the main sponsor of the current Solar Team. We sponsor the team financially, however, we also support them regarding all technical questions they might have. Apart from this, we allow them to use a part of our factory for the assembly of the solar car.”
Mainly because of this vision to innovate to a fully electric car, Punch Powertrain wanted to join the story of the Solar Team as a sponsor. De Wind: “They are already doing the next step of the process. We think we should support this from the beginning and not just wait until the technology is ready to use. We want to be on the forefront of this innovation, and want to support them in any way possible. The main problem with the previous teams was the durability of the car. Together with the Solar Team we helped resolve this in the 2013 Solar Car. With the current Solar Car, we want to win!”
Dedication and knowledge
One of the main reasons for Punch Powertrain to sponsor the Solar Team are the students themselves. “The most important thing that I see in these young people is that talent that we want in our own employees, “Van Otterloo explains. “This is a project that requires a strong dedication and know-how. Today we see that there is a strong need for this type of talent in the engineering sector. You also see that the entire company is very enthusiastic regarding the Solar Team. In the beginning of June a part of our factory is used for the assembly of the car. In the factory itself, you start hearing employees speaking about the Solar Team and everybody pays them a quick visit to check on the status of the build. Every year that the Solar Car is in our factory there is extra dynamic and enthusiasm with our employees. And of course we follow the Solar Challenge every year!”