We are becoming more sustainable: Cooperation with Hyundai Steel

KIRCHHOFF Automotive has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hyundai Steel Company to supply low-carbon steel products.

"The agreement with Hyundai Steel gives us an additional opportunity to source green steel from as early as 2025. The CO2 reduction will be achieved through a mixing process of EAF and BOF material (Electric Arc Furnace/Blast Oxigene Furnace), which will then reduce the CO2 footprint for the delivered product by around 20% compared to the steel currently supplied from the blast furnace route. In the final expansion stage, the blast furnace process will also be replaced by steel from the electric arc furnace route in order to achieve CO2 neutrality," explains Uwe Hadwich, Global Director Procurement.

The Korean company Hyundai Steel Company supplies us with steel in the form of cold-rolled and hot-dip galvanized coils and is a leader in the field of materials for the automotive industry. Through continuous investment, research and development, Hyundai aims to decarbonize the steel manufacturing process and expand the production range of low-carbon steels.

KIRCHHOFF Automotive and Hyundai aim to explore and develop opportunities to manufacture and supply low carbon steel products for the European market. To this end, KIRCHHOFF Automotive will test the low-carbon cold-rolled or hot-dip galvanized coils. These will be produced in a complex process that combines the blast furnace process and the electric arc furnace process.

“We plan to conduct actual parts testing with KIRCHHOFF Automotive and plan to proactively establish a low-carbon automobile steel plate sales network by collaborating with European automakers”, says an insider from Hyundai Steel.

With the signing of this memorandum of understanding, KIRCHHOFF Automotive is taking a further step towards more sustainable mobility. Further cooperation in this context already exist with the suppliers ArcelorMittal, thyssenkrupp Steel Europe, SSAB and H2Green Steel. The company also ranks among the top 5% in the "Manufacture of parts and accessories for motor vehicles" sector and was awarded a silver medal by EcoVadis, the world's most reliable provider of sustainability ratings for companies.


Hot forming key to more sustainable automotive production

KIRCHHOFF Automotive shows that hot forming does not increase the CO2 footprint of a component, but reduces it.

Nowadays, the CO2 footprint in the automotive industry is a key issue. Hot forming has sometimes been seen as a CO2 driver due to the energy used. A new study by KIRCHHOFF Automotive, the specialist for safety-relevant body parts, shows the opposite: innovative manufacturing processes such as hot forming can even play a decisive role in reducing emissions.

Technology Development Specialist Markus Loecker provides valuable insights into the advantages of hot forming: "With hot forming, you can work with thinner materials, which leads directly to a reduction in the overall weight of the vehicle. This weight saving plays a role in reducing CO2 emissions when driving a vehicle with a combustion engine. At the same time, it helps to reduce the energy requirements of an electrically powered vehicle."

However, the reduction in material compared to the use of cold-formed steels is most important. This is because the biggest influence on the CO2 footprint of a component lies in the amount of material used. While the processing technology itself also leads to emissions by heating the steel, reducing the amount of material used is an effective way of lowering the carbon footprint. "Hot forming allows us to achieve more with less material. This is particularly important as the automotive industry is constantly looking for ways to minimize its environmental impact," adds Markus Loecker.

This is why we use hot forming for safety-relevant body parts such as crash management systems and A and B pillars in order to use thinner material while maintaining or even improving performance. This technology produces particularly hard and resistant steel parts that are especially effective in crash situations and therefore play a decisive role in the passive safety of vehicles. Hot forming thus leads to greater safety and, at the same time, a reduction in CO2 emissions, thereby also supporting the company's sustainability efforts.

Markus Loecker truly believes in the importance of hot forming for the future of the automotive industry: "Contrary to what one might think at first glance, hot forming is a key element in sustainable automotive engineering. It helps us to reduce our environmental impact by using and processing materials more intelligently."


Important Milestone for the Site in Hungary

In addition to the handover of two new halls, KIRCHHOFF Automotive celebrated its 20th anniversary in Hungary and the official opening of the recently renamed “Kirchhoff fasor” (“Kirchhoff Avenue”) in front of the factory premises in Esztergom.

KIRCHHOFF Automotive is investing around HUF 20 billion (almost 51 million euros) in new production and logistics halls and complex robot-controlled welding technology in Esztergom and Dorog. This will create 100 new jobs in the region.

The 5,600 square metre halls are only the first phase of the expansion of the plant area.

In addition to the owner family Kirchhoff, Ádám Hernádi, Mayor of Esztergom, Gábor Erős, Member of Parliament, and Boglárka Illés, State Secretary for the Development of Bilateral Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, also attended the ceremony. In her welcome speech, Boglárka Illés stressed the importance of the automotive industry for Hungary: 25% of the manufacturing industry's output comes from the automotive sector. “It is extremely important not only to establish cooperation with the automotive industry, but also to strengthen it. I believe that today we are celebrating the completion of another investment by KIRCHHOFF Hungária Kft.” The Secretary of State thanked the owners and described the company as a crucial and indispensable link in the automotive industry.

In his opening speech, J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO KIRCHHOFF Automotive AG, repeatedly thanked all employees from Hungary for the 20-year success story, which would not have been possible without them. The transformation of the former assembly plant into a press shop with new processes and machines had already been a challenge. “However, the biggest challenge was that we launched products for ten new customers in a very short time,” said the CEO. Today, the team in Esztergom is running the most advanced technologies used at KIRCHHOFF Automotive. “My family and I are very proud that we have managed these challenges together with the Hungarian management team. However, this is not only thanks to the strong leadership team [...], but to all the employees here. Thank you once again for this great achievement!”

The festive event was rounded off with cultural programmes, a panel discussion and the inevitable cake-cutting by the two managing directors in Esztergom, Szilárd Méri and Géza Körtvélyessy.


Awarded: GM-Supplier of the Year 2023

“Their innovation and support are critical to helping us deliver the world-class vehicles our customers have to come expect”, said Jeff Morrison, vice president, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain General Motors, at the GM Supplier of the Year Awards. The award, which is already the 15th from General Motors for KIRCHHOFF Automotive, recognizes the company's outstanding achievements in the field of structural metal parts.

The award ceremony in Miami, Florida, USA took place as part of an event focusing on the limitless opportunities for collaboration between suppliers and General Motors. Jeff Morrison praised the innovative strength of the award-winning suppliers and emphasized their contribution to the transformation of the company. "We are honored to partner with these top suppliers who have made notable contributions to our transformation. Together we’re pushing boundaries, pioneering new technologies and redefining what’s possible. Their innovation and support are critical to our ability to deliver the world-class vehicles our customers expect," he said.

J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff, Chairman of the Executive Board & CEO KIRCHHOFF Automotive, accepted the "Supplier of the Year 2023 in the Creativity Team of Structures" award together with Larry Hagood, President & CEO KIRCHHOFF Automotive North America, and Josh Forquer, EVP Sales & Technical Development KIRCHHOFF Automotive North America. "KIRCHHOFF Automotive has been awarded for the 15th time this year out of 20,000 GM suppliers worldwide. It is a great achievement and recognition of all employees in our plants and in the Corporate departments, which we have accepted on their behalf. I would like to congratulate and thank all our employees," said J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff. Larry Hagood added, “At KIRCHHOFF Automotive North America, we recognize that our people are the greatest resource we have. It is only by unlocking the creativity and ambitions of our people and empowering them to perform their jobs in the best way possible will we have a chance to achieve our ‘limitless’ potential.”

Info box:

In addition to the Supplier of the Year award, General Motors has honored the North American KIRCHHOFF Automotive plants in Aurora, Dallas, Lansing, North York, Querétaro and Tecumseh with the "2023 Customer Care and Aftersales On-Time Shipping Award" for its delivery reliability.

About the picture:

Out of 20,000 GM suppliers, 83 were honored. This puts KIRCHHOFF Automotive in the top 1 percent of all GM suppliers worldwide. At the award ceremony from left to right: J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff (Chairman of the Executive Board & CEO KIRCHHOFF Automotive), Peter Layer (Executive Director, Chassis, Propulsion Structures General Motors), Josh Forquer (EVP Sales & Technical Development KIRCHHOFF Automotive North America), Larry Hagood (President & CEO KIRCHHOFF Automotive North America)


Silver Medal for Sustainability Performance

EcoVadis Rating validates KIRCHHOFF Automotive’s business sustainability commitments and performance. In its sector, the South Westphalian automotive supplier is among the 5% of the best rated companies.

KIRCHHOFF Automotive has achieved a silver medal from EcoVadis, the world’s most trusted provider of business sustainability ratings. The company is among the top 5% in the sector "Manufacture of parts and accessories for motor vehicles" and among the top 14% of all companies assessed. In total, EcoVadis assessed over 85,000 companies worldwide.

“This independent assessment confirms our belief that we are on the right way towards sustainability. It’s not only a testament to our commitment to environmental and social issues but also validates that our efforts are recognized by experts. However, the EcoVadis silver medal is not just an accomplishment; it's also a motivation to continue improving our sustainability practices”, says Anna Szklarz, Global Director CSR & Sustainability at KIRCHHOFF Automotive. “The positive evaluation indicates that our company has also taken effective and solid measures to address key social challenges, showing our dedication to responsible employment.”

EcoVadis is the global standard for business sustainability ratings. The EcoVadis assessment evaluates 21 sustainability criteria across four core themes: Environment, Labor & Human Rights, Ethics and Sustainable Procurement.

EcoVadis’ business sustainability ratings are based on international sustainability standards such as the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards and the ISO 26000 standard. The ratings provide an evidenced-based analysis on performance and an actionable roadmap for continuous improvement.

Learn more at EcoVadis.com/suppliers


Here you can watch a video about KIRCHHOFF Automotive’s EcoVadis silber medal award.


New Address: Esztergom Plant in Kirchhoff alley

In memory of Dr. Jochen F. Kirchhoff, MDs in Hungary have been working for some time to change the name of the public area in front of the Esztergom plant from King Matthias road (Mátyás király út) to Kirchhoff Alley (in Hungarian: “fasor”) .

The year 2024 seems to be off to a good start for them, as the local government has officially approved the renaming of the road in front of the Esztergom plant, so from this year onwards KIRCHHOFF Automotive's Hungarian headquarters will be located at Kirchhoff fasor 1.

"There is no doubt that we are immensely proud to rename the road in honor of a man, whom many of us look up to and cherish. The new production hall and the tree-lined street will be inaugurated at the end of May. By that time exactly 92 more trees will have been planted along the street, symbolizing the years of Dr Jochen F. Kirchhoff's life", shared Géza Körtvélyessy and Szilárd Méri, the Managing Directors of the Hungarian plant.

Several departments in the Hungarian team are currently working to ensure that the new address is written everywhere from invoices and communication interfaces to Google Maps.


On the right track

KIRCHHOFF Automotive is taking further steps to achieve its sustainability goals and decarbonize its supply chain: We have agreed with the Swedish company H2Green Steel to supply virtually emission-free steel to the tune of 130 million euros.

Both companies have signed a 7-year contract for this.

"The message from our customers is clear: they want products with a lower carbon footprint. This is in line with our ambition to play a pioneering role in sustainable development in the industry. Sustainability has always played an important role for us. It's great to be working with the new player in the market, H2 Green Steel. The team has really pushed the steel industry to do more and move faster in terms of sustainability," says Michael Rank, Global EVP Procurement.

KIRCHHOFF Automotive is working very ambitiously on the sustainability of the company and its supply chain, where steel is the main product component and accounts for 50% of material purchases.

90% of the CO2 footprint is currently determined by the use of conventionally produced steel and aluminum. Based on orders from international car manufacturers for future vehicle generations, KIRCHHOFF Automotive assumes that the demand for safe and sustainable body components will rise sharply in the coming years.

The agreement that has now been concluded provides for green steel from the H2 Green Steel plant in Boden/Sweden to be supplied to KIRCHHOFF Automotive plants throughout Europe from 2027.

KIRCHHOFF Automotive has already started to determine the location of greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain (Scope 3) in 2022, both upstream at suppliers and downstream at customers. In addition, the company is pursuing the overarching goal of establishing a high level of sustainability in the supply chains of the automotive industry, which is also reflected in the fact that KIRCHHOFF Automotive is one of the founding members of the "Responsible Supply Chain Initiative RSCI e. V." association.

"Suppliers to the automotive industry must align themselves with the ambitious plans set out by progressive car makers. But we also have a group of companies that are ahead of the others because they follow their own compass. KIRCHHOFF Automotive is one such company. They combine their impressive heritage with a strong focus on the future, where sustainable products are both a competitive advantage and important for the climate and sustainability goals," says Stephan Flapper, Head of Commercial, H2 Green Steel.

H2 Green Steel is committed to complying with Scope 1, 2 and upstream Scope 3 requirements as defined in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. The company has committed to a gross carbon emissions intensity per ton of steel in its customer contracts. The ongoing work to reduce emissions will have an impact on KIRCHHOFF Automotive's material supply chain and its upstream Scope 3 emissions.

The two companies will also collaborate on a circular economy initiative with the aim of returning at least 30% of steel scrap to H2 Green Steel's electric arc furnaces in Boden for recycling.


The winter issue of K>MOBIL is here!

We look back on a year that has not made doing business any easier.

In the current issue of K>MOBIL, you can read here how the KIRCHHOFF Group has met the current challenges and continued to grow in 2023.

Our economy continues to suffer from a shortage of raw materials, high energy prices, trade restrictions and sanctions and their impact on inflation. All this against the backdrop of advancing climate change and a growing shortage of skilled workers. Despite these difficult conditions, the KIRCHHOFF Group was able to close the year with a reasonable result. "The trust of our customers and the performance of our employees enabled us to achieve an extraordinary increase in sales performance, so that we expect healthy growth in the coming years as well," says Arndt G. Kirchhoff in the editorial of the current K>MOBIL. The KIRCHHOFF Group was able to expand its activities at many locations and drive forward technological innovations. We report on this and the following main topics in the current winter issue:

  • Editorial: "The world in transition" – looking back to 2023
  • Sustainability – A Core Value
  • 100th H2-powered waste collection vehicle delivered
  • Employer branding: promoting and inspiring young talent
  • Increasing degree of automation
  • FAUN and ZOELLER continue to grow
  • Successful trade fair appearances with new innovative products

The publisher of K>MOBIL, Arndt G. Kirchhoff, and the entire editorial team wish you an enjoyable read, relaxing holidays and a good start to a successful New Year.

In addition to the digital version for download, printed copies will be available from mid-December in the entrance areas and canteens, or at other central locations in our plants.


Clear Commitment to Sustainability and Climate Protection

KIRCHHOFF Automotive and thyssenkrupp Steel Europe (tkSE) have signed a memorandum of understanding to deepen their existing strategic partnership and reduce CO2 emissions.

Both companies have made a clear commitment to sustainability and climate protection. In order to reduce CO2 emissions in the production of metal structural parts from KIRCHHOFF Automotive, they have defined certain parameters for the supply of CO2 -reduced, modern hot-forming steels from the bluemint® Steel product family.

bluemint® Steel is a mass-balanced product with a reduced CO2 footprint. The supply of this steel to KIRCHHOFF Automotive is planned from the second half of 2026.

"By using modern, CO2-reduced steels, we are taking a further step towards more sustainability in our products. The majority of our CO2 footprint is caused by the use of the material we process. By using bluemint® steel from thyssenkrupp Steel, we will further reduce this and thus contribute to climate protection," said CEO J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff at the signing of the memorandum of understanding.

Dr. Heike Denecke-Arnold, Chief Operations Officer, thyssenkrupp Steel, added: "We are delighted to be working with our long-standing customer KIRCHHOFF Automotive to make the steel value chain even more sustainable in the future. By producing and using modern hot-forming steels with reduced CO2 intensity, we are making a contribution to an environmentally friendly future without compromising on product quality."

tkSE has already implemented initial measures to reduce CO2 emissions and offers steel products with a reduced CO2 footprint based on the use of recycled scrap in the blast furnace. With this bluemint®recycled material, around 1.35 tons (64 percent) of CO2 emissions can be saved compared to conventional hot-rolled strip. 

Compared to conventional steels, there are no restrictions in terms of product properties and qualities.

Info: tkSE, based in Duisburg/Germany, is the largest German steel manufacturer. The company's core business areas are steel production and the manufacture of flat products made of quality steel as well as the provision of services in the steel sector.


2023: Reasonable result despite difficult conditions

J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff, Chairman of the Management Board of KIRCHHOFF Automotive, looks back on a year that was once again characterized by many challenges at the seniors and jubilarians’ celebrations of KIRCHHOFF Automotive at the German locations. Nevertheless, he believes that the South Westphalian automotive supplier is well positioned for the future.

The past year has not made doing business any easier. After sales on the automotive market in the first few months of the year gave rise to hopes of an economic recovery, the economy cooled down in the second half of the year. The availability of raw materials, trade restrictions and sanctions, as well as their impact on inflation, determine the framework conditions for the reorganization of supply chains.

While new registrations of electric cars are increasing significantly, those of combustion engines and plug-in hybrids are continuing to decline. This is a positive development for KIRCHHOFF Automotive. This is because the South Westphalian automotive supplier develops and produces safety-relevant metal structural components, especially with regard to changes in car bodies and requirements such as those found in electric vehicles. The company can therefore currently look forward to a good and balanced order situation for new business.

Many new products and safety structural parts for electric vehicles have been successfully launched this year on new systems in the European and North American KIRCHHOFF Automotive plants. The focus was on the development of resource-saving and crash-relevant structural body parts in lightweight construction for combustion engines and electric vehicles.

KIRCHHOFF Automotive continued to invest in technologies and production facilities at its plants worldwide in 2023. New 1800 and 400-ton presses and modern welding systems were installed in the North American plants. One year after the start of production, the latest KIRCHHOFF Automotive plant in Atlanta/USA was officially inaugurated in May. In order to create sufficient capacity for the production of body-in-white parts and dashboard carriers for new customer programs, the plants in Puebla, Mexico, and Querétaro are being extensively expanded. A new construction phase at the Esztergom plant in Hungary was already initiated at the end of 2022 after orders for larger and more complex assemblies were won.

Conscious of its ecological responsibility, KIRCHHOFF Automotive is using low-carbon steel for the first time. To this end, the automotive supplier is cooperating with leading steel manufacturers such as ArcelorMittal, SSAB and, more recently, ThyssenKrupp, to work together on the development of low-carbon steel for cars and trucks. "We are already seeing the first signs of success," confirms J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff.

Almost six million euros were invested in new technologies and equipment at the KIRCHHOFF Automotive main plant in Iserlohn in 2023. Welding capacities have been further expanded for newly launched products. For example, the first semi-automatic machine, an automated robot system for projection welding of fasteners, went into series production in spring. In addition, the automation and digital control of highly complex production processes was further advanced. Many new product launches for current, predominantly e-vehicle models from major car manufacturers were successfully implemented this year.

At the Attendorn plant, over eight million euros were invested in new systems for the electric platforms of major car manufacturers and for plant expansions in 2023. Four new welding systems - two semi-automatic and two fully automatic - were put into operation for the production of new, highly sophisticated products.

"Despite the persistently difficult conditions, we were able to close the year with a reasonable result," says J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff. In 2023, KIRCHHOFF Automotive will achieve a turnover of 1,800 million euros with around 8,000 employees. "The trust of our customers and the performance of our employees enabled us to achieve an extraordinary increase in sales performance, so that we expect healthy growth in the coming years as well," says J. Wolfgang Kirchhoff.

You can read more about the 2023 financial year review and 2024 outlook in the winter edition of K>MOBIL.