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The Last Word: Wicher Kist

Closing this month’s issue of North East Times, Wicher Kist, chief executive at automotive electric powertrain engineer Saietta Group, reveals more about the company’s recently-announced Wearside expansion. The business has taken on a former ZF factory on Rainton Bridge Business Park, on the outskirts of Houghtonle-Spring – in the process offering jobs to nearly 40 ex-ZF staff – where it aims to make 100,000 e-motors every year while bringing new e-axle work to the region from China.

Upon announcing your Wearside move, you hailed it as a “landmark achievement”. Why did you choose Rainton Bridge Business Park, and how will the ex-ZF plant help you meet future goals and objectives?

There were a number of important factors that helped inform our decision to make Sunderland Saietta’s new UK manufacturing hub.

As things stand today, the facility – which we purchased from a global tier one technology supplier – is already in an advanced state and ready for production output, but we plan to redevelop and upgrade the site immediately to meet our exact requirements.

The 86,000sq ft facility is a highly specialised automotive electric motor centre, with a rich history of producing more than 20 million e-motors for a range of automotive applications since 1999.

So, in selecting Sunderland, we have found the ideal location, people, expertise, experience and technologies to help us grow. It will play an integral role in realising our production output goal of hitting 100,000 units per annum by 2024.

Wearside is already a renowned automotive hub, thanks to Nissan’s record-breaking feats. Its reputation stands ready to increase further, though, thanks to an alliance between the car maker and Envision AESC, which promises hundreds of jobs at a new electric vehicle battery making plant on the International AdvancedManufacturing Park. To what extent did this landscape influence your decision?

There were a number of key influencing factors. The UK, and the Sunderland region, is a hotspot for electric powertrain innovation, expertise and development, so the area is a natural fit for Saietta.

We are committed to building our engineering and manufacturing capabilities in the UK – this is an important facet as we grow. And in this respect, we are not only creating new UK jobs, but also bringing e-axle production from China to the North East.

As you reference above, part of your move to Wearside will see work shifted from East Asia. Why have you chosen to do that, and what impact will it have on operations?

An essential aim for the company is to establish a fully operational UK production facility well inadvance of our important 2024 goal. Up until now, our proven e-axle commercial vehicle drivetrain technology has been exclusively manufactured in China.

But by bringing this core capability to the UK, and within our Sunderland hub specifically, we can ramp up operations across Europe, meeting the needs of the growing market. That way we are manufacturing locally – but crucially on a global basis – carefully meeting exact and specific customer demands. We now have an operation that is flexible, dynamic, reactive and proactive.

Closing this month’s issue of North East Times, Wicher Kist, chief executive at automotive electric powertrain engineer Saietta Group, reveals more about the company’s recently-announced Wearside expansion. The business has taken on a former ZF factory on Rainton Bridge Business Park, on the outskirts of Houghton-le-Spring – in the process offering jobs to nearly 40 ex-ZF staff – where it aims to make 100,000 e-motors every year while bringing new e-axle work to the region from China.

www.saiettagroup.com

@DriveSaietta