INTERVIEW Alin Ioanes, CEO Rombat: “Our focus in 2023 is the development of production capacities as well as care for the environment and employees”
“The main objectives for the year 2023 consider the development of production capacities as well as care for the environment and employees. Our focus is also on improving the working environment for the continuous development of employees. We continuously invest in the growth and development of employees, to stimulate performance and to understand their aspirations at the same time, so that we can offer an optimal work environment, training opportunities, learning and personalized improvement,” Alin Ioanes, CEO of Rombat told Automotive Today. “We look very carefully at the surrounding business environment, the trend of markets and technologies that develop daily and at the same time we continuously invest in the development of products and technical concepts. We have very interesting projects that align with the current trend, in terms of migration to electric vehicles.”
How would you describe the evolution of Rombat in 2022?
We can call it a successful year in which we successfully implemented the new business model, a year in which we prepared our investment program for the next period, investments in the efficiency of the energy system, investments in new technologies that will be made starting with the first semester of the year 2023, and last but not least, we have implemented multiple projects that will make their results felt in the next period of time. It was a year of geopolitical events, a year of multiple crises, of challenges, which we successfully overcame and in the end they developed us and strengthened our position in the market. A year of success by accessing new export markets, by signing new contracts and projects with OEM partners (car manufacturers). A year of reaping the fruits of investments, the quality of products and services, things that were rewarded by the designation of Rombat with the Q1 FORD supplier distinction, as well as by the nomination of Rombat on the first position of best Q1 supplier on automotive industry.
What were your most successful projects and partnerships in 2022?
The new vision and strategy implemented, the new business model, the signing of partnerships with important Universities and Innovation Centers from Romania, partnerships that aim to develop and increase the dynamics of research and innovation. At the same time, the consolidation for the next period of the partnerships with car manufacturers and the development of the product portfolio with them. The year 2022 also meant the start of investments and the modernization of administrative and production spaces, with the aim of increasing comfort, taking care of the productive staff and TESA. At the level of the partnerships developed in 2022, we accessed new markets in Europe and the Middle East, markets that meant attracting new strategic partners.
What are your goals and priorities for 2023?
Based on ROMBAT’s values, the main objectives for the year 2023 consider the development of production capacities as well as care for the environment and employees.
We plan to invest in a semi-automatic line for HD EFB, AGM batteries. This will allow us to develop new product ranges and respond promptly to requests from the HD battery market, offering us new perspectives in the years to come.
Out of the desire to increase sustainability and implicitly reduce the carbon footprint, we have submitted a project for a 4.2 MW photovoltaic park to PNRR and we want to start its implementation during the current year.
At the same time, we have scheduled investments in a 1 MW photovoltaic park in Copsa Mica, as well as the purchase of an oxygen production plant. They ensure significant energy independence, giving us the opportunity to remain competitive in an increasingly aggressive market.
Our focus is also on improving the working environment for the continuous development of employees. We continuously invest in the growth and development of employees, to stimulate performance and to understand their aspirations at the same time, so that we can offer an optimal work environment, training opportunities, learning and personalized improvement.
What are your expectations for the local market in 2023, anticipated challenges?
The Romanian market is a dynamic market in which prestigious European producers are present, a very active competitive market. There is no concern about this environment in the context in which our products have an excellent quality-price ratio, offering the end consumer products of first assembly quality through the standards we have as an original manufacturer for Ford, Dacia and Renault, thus ensuring the ordinary consumer access to the latest technologies, at a very competitive price. It is a matter of pride for us, being the only authentic producer of batteries in Romania, through 360-degree integrated production, to produce for the domestic and European automobile industry, as well as for the contracts we have under strong private labels and brands, present on very many markets in Europe and Romania.
Among the challenges we could mention the geo-political evolution of the conflict in Ukraine as well as the evolution or rather the inflation at the European level which is currently turning into price increases for raw materials, the change in consumer behaviour in response to inflationary pressure.
What are your main concerns for the near future?
In short, the main concerns are in fact the basic pillars of our business, principles by which we are guided: – sustainability and care for the environment, innovation, care for employees and the community, sustainable and reliable partnerships
We look very carefully at the surrounding business environment, the trend of markets and technologies that develop daily and at the same time we continuously invest in the development of products and technical concepts. We have very interesting projects that align with the current trend, in terms of migration to electric vehicles.
We also have projects in the area of LI-ION products addressing the energy storage and industrial area.
How do you see the Romanian automotive industry evolving in 2023?
The evolution of the local market is similar to the trend of the international market, following its evolution. In terms of our field, automotive, the challenge is all the greater as the automotive industry is going through a rapid and unprecedented transformation in terms of migration to electric cars. According to the decision taken by the European Commission, from 2035 the only cars sold will be electric ones, and those with a thermal engine will reach the end of the road.
Therefore, we, as suppliers for this industry, are taking the necessary steps in the same direction, in order to remain efficient and to consolidate our leading position.
What should be Romania’s priorities in the short- and medium-term strategy for the automotive industry?
We can say that the automotive industry is the spearhead of industrial competitiveness, stimulating the possibility of horizontal development for many small and medium enterprises. Romania is among the main car producers in the European Union, thus ensuring a promising future in the car production industry.
An important element in ensuring the growth and development of this segment is the investments directed towards Romania’s infrastructure, something that would strengthen the unity and convergence between Romania’s regions, the support of small and medium enterprises through PNRR projects and last but not least the adoption of a coherent and effective strategy in the field of protection environment, aiming to reduce CO2 emissions.
Also, the facilities offered to automotive manufacturers must be anchored in the reality of the global competitive market, so that there is still real support for the industry. There is a standardization of costs at least at the European level in terms of the cost of labour, the cost of utilities, the cost of raw materials and any support given by another state to its own industry becomes an added value and may mean the decline of another similar industry from another State.