125 years of Bosch – Invented for life International markets and the path to success Internationalization is part of the Bosch tradition

  • Worldwide sales of innovative products are key to success
  • International reach secures global competitiveness
  • Subsidiaries and affiliated companies in over 60 countries
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  • April 14, 2011
  • Business/economy
  • Press releases

press release

Stuttgart – The Bosch Group's international orientation is an element of its strategy. As a leading global supplier of technology and services that has more than 350 subsidiaries and regional companies in over 60 countries, the Bosch Group generated some 77 percent of its total sales outside Germany in fiscal 2010. The company employs roughly 285,000 associates worldwide. The Bosch locations and divisions are part of an international development, manufacturing, and sales network. This broad global presence strengthens Bosch's innovative ability and its competitiveness. International reach is therefore a crucial factor for the long-term and continuing success of the company.

Testing the international waters
The Bosch Group's global focus is almost as old as the company itself. Its founder, Robert Bosch, understood early on that internationalization presented an opportunity for growth. It was in his nature as a cosmopolitan and visionary entrepreneur to aim for an international presence for both sales and manufacturing. Bosch has been active in the United States and China for over 100 years, and the Japanese, Portuguese, and Finnish subsidiaries are celebrating their centenary in 2011. The Bosch strategy of internationalization has played a significant role in transforming the company into the global player that it is today.

With his modified low-voltage magneto ignition device, developed in 1897, and its modified successor, the high-voltage magneto ignition system presented in 1902, Robert Bosch prepared the ground for the success of the automobile. Shortly after this, Robert Bosch realized how important his new technology was going to be. His efforts to market his products outside Germany were underpinned both by his earlier experience of working in the United States and the United Kingdom and by the opportunities offered by cross-border trade. Together with the British businessman Frederick R. Simms, Robert Bosch set up a sales company in the United Kingdom in 1898. One year later he expanded his business into France and Belgium, administering it from Paris. Additional sales offices were opened across Europe in 1903 and 1904: in Italy, Austria-Hungary, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, and Scandinavia. The success of the high-voltage magneto ignition with spark plug, introduced in 1902, was a particular boon for Bosch's international business. Accordingly, Bosch also set up sales offices beyond Europe, for instance in the United States and South Africa in 1906, Australia and New Zealand in 1907, China in 1909, and Japan in 1911. The British subsidiary in particular developed very well up until the first world war, with 90 percent of automobiles manufactured in the United Kingdom equipped with Bosch magneto ignition devices. This rising demand for magneto ignition systems could no longer be met by the Stuttgart factory alone. The first manufacturing plant outside Germany opened in Paris in 1905. From there, Bosch served customers in France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

Boom years in the United States
The sales company that was established in New York City in 1906 was an overwhelming success, and Bosch's global sales nearly doubled in the year following entry into the U.S. market. The rise of the automobile as a mode of mass transportation brought with it huge sales opportunities. Automobiles with Bosch ignition were far superior to the competition, and it became the technology of choice for leading manufacturers. Robert Bosch himself later described the success of his product in the United States as a “genuine triumph.” It was only natural for him to open a U.S. manufacturing plant, which he did in 1912 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He also expanded the scope of his business through a network of agents and sales offices across the country.

New beginnings after the first world war
The outbreak of the first world war brought international business to an end for the time being. In many countries where Bosch had been successful, especially in the United Kingdom and France, its activities came to a standstill. The United States entry into the war in 1917 was followed by the expropriation of Bosch Magneto Company in the United States. The loss of trademarks and their assignment to new owners in the United Kingdom, France, and the United States made it difficult to rebuild an international sales network in the years after the war. Nonetheless, the 1920s saw new contracts signed with agents in Argentina, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Syria, and Thailand. Robert Bosch cultivated close international cooperation and alliances with companies outside Germany that produced similar products. Thus, despite the Great Depression of 1929, he was able to keep his company's performance on a stable and positive course until the outbreak of the second world war.

The United States becomes the main market
In 1930 agreement was finally reached with the new owners of the erstwhile Bosch Magneto Company in the United States, which had been expropriated in 1918. The new United American Bosch Corporation was formed through a merger, and its name was simplified to American Bosch Corporation (ABC) in 1938. The second world war led to a second expropriation by the U.S. authorities. Once the international political repercussions of the war had largely run their course, Bosch managed to regain a foothold in the United States. A new sales company, Robert Bosch Corporation, was established in New York City in 1953. Production of equipment for diesel engines began in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1974. It was not until 1983 that the Bosch Group won back the trademark rights expropriated during the war and finally regained the unrestricted right to use the Bosch name worldwide. Bosch currently has more than 22,000 associates at some 90 locations in North America, including 14,000 associates in the United States, and North America is the Bosch Group's largest market. Nearly all the company's divisions are active there, though the focus is on automotive technology. Above all it is the areas of modern diesel technology and innovative solutions such as the ESP® chassis control system that present considerable opportunities for growth in the North American market.

Local manufacturing gives Bosch a competitive edge
As early as 1956, the global network of sales and customer service offices covered 130 countries. Bosch embarked on a policy of manufacturing locally in order to avoid trade barriers and long supply routes, but also as a way to enter new markets such as Australia and India. The South American market also became lucrative once the favorable manufacturing conditions in Brazil began to attract international automakers such as Ford, General Motors, Daimler-Benz, and Volkswagen. Bosch had had a commercial agent in Brazil since 1910, but closeness to the important customers there was reason enough for Bosch to take responsibility for its own original equipment sales in Brazil and to begin manufacturing its products locally in 1954. The new factory in Campinas, opened in 1960, was the foundation for one of the Bosch Group's most important regional subsidiaries. More than 11,000 associates currently work for Bosch in Brazil.

Growth through new locations and acquisitions
Bosch worked consistently to build on its international orientation. Where in the 1950s that work primarily involved setting up new sales offices and manufacturing sites, the 1960s saw the company being restructured to remain competitive internationally. The recasting of Bosch as a network of relatively autonomous divisions began. Bosch upped its manufacturing capacity both through new locations, including Spain and Mexico, and – particularly in the automotive technology sector – by acquiring companies all around the world.

Successful partnership in India
Business in India was slow during the first half of the 20th century. British competitors dominated the market for vehicles and equipment; thus, hardly any vehicles on the road needed Bosch spare parts. The systematic development of a regional presence did not begin until 1951, at first through a licensing agreement for diesel injection equipment and spark plugs with Motor Industries Company Limited (MICO), a joint venture of Indian companies. Entering this alliance secured access to the Indian market for Bosch, and meant it could begin to manufacture products locally for agriculture and the automotive industry in 1953. Today, Bosch controls roughly 70 percent of the shares in its Indian subsidiary, which was renamed Bosch Limited in 2007. In India, Bosch employs a total of some 21,000 associates at 14 manufacturing sites and three engineering centers.

The Asian growth market opens up
In the 1970s, Bosch's interest in the southeast Asian market grew steadily. The foundation for the company's activities in Asia Pacific was laid in 1972, with the start of manufacturing in Penang, Malaysia. Starting in the mid-1980s, manufacturing sites in Hong Kong and South Korea, as well as offices in Beijing, Bangkok, and Taiwan, paved the way for a broad range of activities in this important growth market. In China in particular – where Bosch magneto ignition systems were first sold in 1909 – the company formed joint ventures with Chinese partners in the 1990s. This allowed it to seize the commercial opportunities presented by the Chinese economic liberalization. In China, over 26,000 associates work in nearly every Bosch division across 21 manufacturing sites. Asia Pacific is now one of the growth markets in which the Bosch Group has the strongest sales.

New markets in eastern Europe
Bosch's progressive internationalization was given further impetus by the political and economic opening of eastern Europe in the 1990s and the growing globalization of the world economy at the turn of the millennium. Sales outside Germany as a proportion of overall Bosch Group sales grew from 51 percent in 1990 to 77 percent in 2010. The potential for development was huge, not only in the growth markets of the Americas and Asia Pacific, but also in central and eastern Europe. Regional subsidiaries were soon established in Poland, Hungary, Russia, and what was then Czechoslovakia, and followed in subsequent years by modern manufacturing sites.

Fostering the technology of the future worldwide
The Bosch development and manufacturing network, which has grown successfully over decades, allows the technical excellence and production capacity at the Bosch locations around the world to be harnessed efficiently. Above all, the Bosch Group's global market presence and capacity for innovation together create opportunities for teams to collaborate across national frontiers to develop and manufacture new products. Alliances with other companies in the development of pioneering technologies, for instance with Samsung in the field of battery technology for electric powertrains, also offers possibilities for growth that is based on a future and result focus. By working together with universities, research institutions, and scientific centers in China, Germany, India, the United States, and many other areas of the world, Bosch is supporting research into innovative technologies that have a promising future. The company draws on its core competencies in fostering research programs and modern teaching methods, and invests directly in young scientists and the global knowledge community.

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at and,

PI7232 - April 14, 2011

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