(Repeats Thursday item)
* Software advances allow new entrants into auto industry
* Suppliers' knowhow has blossomed since global crisis
* Deutsche Post making vans without producing a single
* Firm to decide this year whether to sell electric vans
* VW chief "annoyed beyond measure"
By Edward Taylor
FRANKFURT, Oct 6 German logistics giant Deutsche
Post has quietly designed and made its own electric
delivery van, exploiting sweeping changes in manufacturing
technology which could upend the established order in the auto
For the moment, Deutsche Post is using the vehicles itself
to meet growing demand for e-commerce deliveries without adding
to air pollution in German cities, replacing conventional
But having decided to go it alone with the project -
upsetting VW "beyond measure" - the group will soon decide
whether to start selling the Streetscooter model and join those
set to compete directly with established carmakers.
Advances in manufacturing software are allowing the likes of
Deutsche Post, Google and start-ups to tap suppliers to design,
engineer and test new vehicle concepts without hiring thousands
of engineering staff or investing billions in tooling and
Technical and engineering know-how among this network of
suppliers has blossomed since traditional manufacturers began
farming out research and development to keep their own costs
down after the global financial crisis of 2008-09.
Today, suppliers produce components which make up 80 percent
of a car, up from about 56 percent in the 1980s, creating a
manufacturing system which is being used by new entrants such as
Google for its driverless cars.
Deutsche Post says it took this route when the conventional
vehicle makers turned down requests to build the electric vans
in what are limited numbers by their standards.
"We are purposely not reinventing the wheel. We do not
produce a single component ourselves. Everything comes from a
supplier," Win Neidlinger, director of business development at
Deutsche Post's carmaking arm Streetscooter GmbH, told Reuters.
Deutsche Post already has 1,000 of the bright yellow vans on
the road, and production has been raised to 5,000 vehicles a
year, with the possibility of adding a second shift.
Streetscooter used a software programme made by PTC
to talk to a network of 80 suppliers including Stuttgart-based
Bosch, which provides the electric drivetrain, and
Hella which makes the headlights.
PTC's Windchill software, which costs 300 to 1,000 euros
($330-$1,120) per user per year, is used by 90 percent of the
top 50 automotive companies including Continental, ZF
, Volkswagen, Audi, MAN, Hyundai
Dominik Ruechardt, business development director at PTC,
said software systems are becoming more accessible. After years
of spending millions to customise in-house development
programmes, carmakers have begun switching to more standard
systems, helping to expand the network of suppliers.
"There is a clear trend to go to out-of-the-box systems.
Five years ago the auto industry launched a code of conduct for
product lifecycle management. We have a common understanding of
an open architecture, interfaces, support of standards," he
With e-commerce orders rising, Deutsche Post knew increasing
inner city delivery trips would mean more pollution unless it
switched to zero-emission vehicles. "We scanned the market.
There was no electric van available so we decided to build our
own," Deutsche Post board member Juergen Gerdes told Reuters.
Electric vehicles - which are far simpler in design than
combustion engined cars - require only a tenth of the staff
during assembly, dramatically lowering production costs.
"We designed it as a tool. So the fit and finish does not
need to be as good as in a passenger car," Neidlinger said.
The vans are designed to last 16 years, stay in use for six
days a week and for 10 hours at a time. They need some
particularly robust components, such as doors that can be opened
and closed up to 200 times a day.
By the year-end, Deutsche Post will decide whether to sell
its vans on the open market.
Volkswagen, whose Caddy vans are being phased out by
Deutsche Post in favour of Streetscooters, is among the
established carmakers unamused by missing out on the project.
"I am annoyed beyond measure. I, of course, ask myself why
Post did not talk to our VW Commercial vehicles division about
doing something similar," Chief Executive Matthias Mueller said.
"Let's see if we can still get a foot in the door there."
Analysts say Deutsche Post has shown the motor industry's
shortcomings. "They have opened up a new segment, one which the
conventional carmakers have not discovered because they are too
hamstrung by their own processes," said Christoph Stuermer of
Last month, Deutsche Post presented a new model,
StreetScooter Work L, which has eight cubic metres (280 cubic
feet) of space to carry as many as 150 parcels weighing a total
of 1,000 kg (2,200 lb).
The switch to electric motors makes the total cost of
ownership no more expensive than for equivalent
conventionally-powered vans, Gerdes said.
For commercial reasons he wouldn't put a price on the
Streetscooter, but said: "It did not cost billions to develop
and produce. You will not believe how cheap it is to make."
($1 = 0.8950 euros)
(Reporting by Edward Taylor, additional reporting by Jan
Schwartz; editing by David Stamp)