For years, I was the head of Valeo's lighting R&D activities at Bobigny. I specified and configured most of the facilities in the building. Just recently, a decade after I retired, I was invited back to visit for the first time. Wow—so many changes! There are many more people working there. There are relaxation and brainstorming areas everywhere, just like in Silicon Valley. I could not have imagined so many changes, and I was at once both nostalgic and impressed at what I saw.
The Valeo Group is a €16.5bn enterprise, including €2bn in aftermarket activities. They have 92,000 employees, of whom 11% are in R&D.
There are four business activity groups:
- Driving Assistance Systems, with a large range of smart sensors and features that improve vehicle safety and comfort;
- Powertrain Systems, devising and producing innovations for control and management;
- Thermal Systems, developing and providing modules and components for vehicle thermal energy management, and
- Visibility Systems, designing and supplying innovative lighting and wiper systems. The Visibility Systems business group has a revenue of €5.5bn (including partner Ichikoh), with an ambitious target of €7.7bn in 2021. There are 34,000 employees at 45 sites around the world, and as a result of the group's steady push for diversification of their customer portfolio, Europe now represents less than 50% of their activity.
The wiper activity is smaller than lighting, but the technologies are so innovative. I was very surprised by the strong development of cleaning systems—of course, the group still has major activity on windshield cleaning, but now their target has expanded to clean cameras and sensors for park-assist, FCW, 360° view, and other ADAS functions that rely on machine vision. Software requires full-time machine visibility, so the optics cannot be allowed to become obstructed by ice, mud, bugs, or salt. As more and more cars come to contain more and more sensors and cameras, this activity will carry on growing in importance and volume. Here's a selection of Valeo's fluid-jet cleaning devices: