For Quantron U.S. – a German subsidiary looking to expand its global footprint as it develops long haul trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells – the decision about where to locate mirrored those made by companies over past several decades.
“If you’re going to do automotive product development, or any kind of mobility product development – the right ecosystem, the test labs, the universities, the wind tunnels, the OEMs, they all play (in the Detroit Region),” said Quantron U.S. President and CEO Rick Haas, who helped guide Mahindra Automotive North America to launch in the region a decade ago.
“If you’re going to play in mobility, it’s still the right place to do that,” said Haas, as part of a panel of global mobility executives moderated by Detroit Regional Partnership President and CEO Maureen Donohue Krauss at the Detroit Auto Show’s first-ever Global Mobility Forum on Sept. 14.
For an international company like TÜV SÜD, a Munich-based testing, inspection, and certification services provider, locating to Auburn Hills allowed them to be just a “stone’s throw away” from numerous EV battery companies and OEMs, according to its North American Head of Transportation/Automotive Business Jonathan Drew.
The company invested $44 million – the company’s most substantial laboratory site investment to date – in one of the world’s most advanced EV battery testing labs. The state-of-the-art facility allows for non-standard testing that exposes batteries to real-world abuses and elements ranging from accidents to fires that will be essential to achieving the safety levels needed to ease consumer anxiety and lead to widespread EV adoption.
“Detroit is seen as unique in the world for having that large amount of talent, including engineering talent. The number of companies the industry has collected in a 30- or 50-mile radius is absolutely unbelievable,” said Drew.
“This is where the action is. Despite investments in California or the Southwest or Southeast, this is where it is,” said Drew. “If you need a single place to be, Detroit has the entire infrastructure and understanding of what the automotive world is.”
And that action continues to draw attention of companies such as WAE – a UK-based tech and engineering company that is looking to scale leading electrification and energy storage technology as a means to achieve a zero-emissions, decarbonized future. It’s a goal spearheaded by its parent company, the Australian-based Fortescue Group, which is the one of world’s largest producers of iron ore. The company is working to create a zero-emission fleet of heavy machinery used in mining.
“The greater Detroit area is number one in (assembly talent,)” said WAE CEO Judith Judson, noting the company would likely be announcing its U.S. location in the near future.
“So you have to look into access to a skilled workforce, and where the work has been done to date in the (battery) space, and where that is happening in the U.S.,” she said about the site selection process.
And as that work continues, the Detroit Regional Partnership serves as the single point of contact according to Krauss, who outlined how the DRP supports companies like through site selection, talent solutions, and other services.
“We are fortunate to have access in this region to that talent and talent pipeline,” she said. “So if companies make 20 or 30 year investments, we need to make sure that they have the talent they need for 20 or 30 years.”
To learn more about how the Detroit Regional Partnership can support companies interested in or locating to the Detroit Region, contact our team.