Korea’s KBI Metal ramps up global expansion for ventilated seat motors

2023.05.25 12:23:01 | 2023.05.25 13:54:40

KBI Group logo [Courtesy of KBI]이미지 확대

KBI Group logo [Courtesy of KBI]

South Korea’s KBI Metal Co., a specialized manufacturer of wire materials and car electronics components for the automotive industry, is accelerating global expansion as its blower motors for car ventilated seats are beginning to gain attention from global automakers.

“As the option of ventilated seats, which blows air on the buttocks and back to provide a more comfortable driving experience, becomes increasingly popular, demand for these seats is growing not only in Korea but also in the global automotive industry,” said Paeng Hyeon-seong, senior managing director of KBI Metal’s car electronics division, in a recent interview with Maeil Business Newspaper.

“To meet the growing demand, we have recently invested aggressively in expanding the motor production line and establishing a temperature and humidity-controlled room in our production facility in Daegu,” he said.

KBI Metal’s car electronics division, located in Dalseong County in Daegu, has been producing brushless direct current (BLDC) motors and magnetic cores used in car and home appliance motors since its establishment in 1987. In particular, the company succeeded in localizing ventilated seat motors in 2012, which were previously dependent on imports.

While ventilated seats were once considered a luxury feature in high-end cars, they have become increasingly popular among the public. When the blower motor rotates a fan, it draws in cool air from the car air conditioner in the summer and blows it out from two locations, the seat cushion and backrest, to provide cooling relief.

Currently, KBI Metal is the sole Korean supplier of blower motors for ventilated seats. The company has quickly gained market share by offering products of superior quality compared to its competitors that had previously dominated the market.

“Reducing noise is crucial as increasing the airflow unavoidably results in increased noise,” Paeng said. “Our technological capability to minimize noise has been instrumental in securing our competitive edge.”

The company has achieved a price competitiveness advantage compared to imported products through localization, enabling it to supply products on a large scale to domestic automakers.

KBI Metal’s blower motors for ventilated seats are currently installed in major Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Corp. models such as the G80, Santa Fe, Avante, Kona, Ioniq, Veloster, Tucson, K7, Sportage, and Niro.

KBI Metal Co.’s blower motor production line [Photo provided by KBI Metal]이미지 확대

KBI Metal Co.’s blower motor production line [Photo provided by KBI Metal]

While KBI Metal has primarily focused on the domestic market, it is now accelerating its global expansion.

Since 2015, the company has been supplying blower systems for air circulation to two Mercedes-Benz models. Moreover, it is currently engaged in full-scale production of blower motors to be supplied to AITH (Air International Thailand), a global air conditioning component company, this month.

“By eliminating easily worn internal brushes and equipping the motors with durable BLDC technology capable of high-speed rotation, we have achieved high efficiency even with low power consumption and low noise,” Paeng said.

“We plan to achieve sales of 22 billion won ($16.6 million) by providing blower motors with AITH over the next seven years,” he added.

The air conditioning components assembled by AITH using KBI Metal’s blower motors are scheduled to be finally delivered to VinFast, a subsidiary of Vietnam’s largest private corporation Vingroup.

VinFast has already begun exporting the “VF8” model to North America and is planning to establish a factory in North Carolina from 2024 to produce 150,000 electric vehicles and batteries annually.

This implies that the quantity of blower motors supplied by KBI Metal to the North American electric vehicle market could significantly increase in the future.

KBI Metal, in the meantime, has embarked on aggressive facility investments.

This year, the company invested about 2 billion won in a newly automated production line at its Daegu plant, increasing the production capacity of blower motors for ventilated seats from the previous annual level of 840,000 units to 2 million units.

The company also invested about 1 billion won in a temperature and humidity-controlled room for producing these temperature-sensitive products.

“To prepare for the rapid increase in demand, we plan to further expand our production capacity by adding three more automated production lines with an aim to reach a capacity of 5 million units per year,” Paeng said.

By Yang Yeon-ho and Minu Kim

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]