The automotive industry giant you’ve never heard of

With over 23,000 employees around the globe, this little-known giant is likely to be hiding under your bonnet.

Car enthusiasts love their brand names, and often nerd out on the smaller details of models, parts and the all-important provenance.

Beyond the obvious makes and models, one can also delve into the lesser-known world of automotive suppliers.

There are some well-known ones, like Yamaha-designed cylinder heads on high-revving Toyotas, and Dana differentials under rock-crawing Jeeps. Then there are some less savoury ones as well, like the legendary ‘Prince of Darkness’ Lucas electrics on many British-made vehicles.

After all, carmakers don’t research, design and build every single component used in a vehicle. Many things are sourced from specialist companies, who have their own history and reputation.

A good analogy in this regard is like making a cake. When you’re baking, you don’t make everything from scratch. Flour, sugar and eggs are bought in from suppliers, and you might even source some special fondant or other garnishes.

For a carmaker, it’s the same. They build and assemble a vehicle from a combination of parts they make themselves or source from other companies.

One you might not know so well is Mann + Hummel, one of the biggest manufacturers of automotive and industrial filters.

Personally, this is something I found after spending an unhealthy amount of time researching oil and fuel filters for my Land Rover Defender. Honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing how long.

Anyhow, I ended up reading about Mann + Hummel, a German company that had a tumultuous early history, particularly during and after the first World War.

The history of the company goes back to 1889, with a textile company called Bleyle in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

In 1939, company CEOs – former teacher Adolf Mann and lawyer Dr. Erich Hummel – were approached by Mahle – a piston manufacturer based in Stuttgart – to produce engine filters.

Mahle is another big name in parts suppliers, but this became the big break for Bleyle to diversify into something new.

These initial cone-style air filters used fabric material as the filtration element; something that suited Bleyle’s existing textile and clothing business. Knitting masters turned their direction to filtration, instead of making clothing for men, women and children.

And when the Volkswagen Beetle started rolling off the production line in large numbers in 1945, it had a variety of cone felt filters made by a new filter company: Filterwerk Mann + Hummel.

Bleyle continued on for around four decades after the filtration business took off, but succumbed to bankruptcy in 1988.

In a booming German post-war economy of the 1950s, Mann + Hummel industrialised its own facilities, increasing production capacity significantly and expanding into international markets.

And as companies like Porsche, Volkswagen, Audi and BMW became global automotive forces, so did Mann + Hummel. The only difference is, you might not have heard of this one.

Today, Mann + Hummel employs over 23,000 people worldwide, with more than 80 locations around the world.

The company produces 27 new filters every second, and posted 4.2B Euros of sales revenue in 2019.

Designing, engineering and ultimately producing a wide variety of crucial components like filters means Mann + Hummel parts are likely lurking under the bonnet and sheetmetal of your own vehicle, regardless of where it is from.

They will be tricky to find, because the branding doesn’t always tell you who made the part.

The company also developed a long-lasting social conscience, with company profit sharing and health insurance, along with its own pension and home-building program for employees.

While filters are undoubtedly the core of business for Mann, the company has expanded into a variety of other Original Equipment (OE) like intake ducting and manifolds for the current Ford Mustang and Ranger, as well as components for electric vehicles, tractors and industrial machinery, and just about anything that goes brum or whir.

Oil and fuel filters might become less prevalent in a future electrified world, but internal combustion will still be used in certain commercial, industrial and heavy-duty applications for many years to come.

EVs still need filters for cooling systems and cabin ventilation, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles require precise particle filtration, as well as water separation.

The company has done work on a system that catches and filters fine brake dust for reducing total emissions from a vehicle (not just tailpipe emissions) through being mounted atop the brake calliper.

Mann + Hummel is also working with Audi on an ‘urban purifier’ system that can actively filter and clean its surrounding air, taking brake, tyre and road abrasion dust out of polluted urban atmospheres.

Mann + Hummel has also identified development of filtration systems for things like office spaces and elevators; something that is significantly more important in our post-covid world.

The post The automotive industry giant you’ve never heard of appeared first on Drive.

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