AUO Acquires BHTC for Advanced System Integration in Automotive Displays and Securing a Crucial Role in the Auto Supply Chain, Says TrendForce

by Colette Barron

TrendForce reports that the global automotive market continues to blaze ahead in its vigorous expansion, with vehicle displays steering toward larger dimensions and tech-savvy cockpits. In this technological race, many panel makers are ramping up their visibility in the automotive supply chain, dreaming of clinching a Tier 1 supplier status. Making its bold move in this dynamic landscape, AUO announced on October 2nd its complete acquisition of Germany’s Behr-Hella Thermocontrol GmbH (BHTC), epitomizing this forward-thinking trend.

Trendforce believes AUO’s acquisition of BHTC is poised to yield rich dividends in the medium to long term for AUO’s ongoing transformation. This deal serves as AUO’s golden ticket into BHTC’s client supply chain, amplifying and fortifying its presence in the automotive market. Moreover, BHTC, already a Tier 1 auto supplier, specializes in in-car climate control and human-machine interfaces, delivering seamless system integration. For AUO, traditionally a panel purist with limited system integration prowess, this union promises a quantum leap into the integration realm, bolstering its credibility with automakers.

Traditionally, as Tier 2 suppliers, panel makers found it challenging to gauge the aspirations of automakers directly. However, with the resources of a Tier 1 supplier now in their arsenal, opportunities for direct engagements with automakers will multiply. This is especially pivotal in understanding their vision for vehicle models and specifications 5–7 years later, aiding in proactive resource planning and preparation for the current phase.

Since the advent of EVs, automotive electronic technology has gained significant attention, prompting traditional automakers to reevaluate and restructure their supply chains. This shift became particularly pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic when the industry grappled with severe shortages of automotive semiconductors. Confronted with this challenge, traditional automakers have been increasingly keen on ensuring the stability of critical technologies and components.

This dynamic has opened up fresh opportunities for non-traditional Tier 1 suppliers. Riding this wave, display manufacturers are aggressively amplifying the significance of automotive display segments within vehicles and aspiring to transition into Tier 1 supplier roles. Notable moves in this direction include joint ventures like Tianma partnering with HAXC, BOE’s merger with Varitronix, and CarUX’s spin-off from Innolux.

TrendForce observed that the overall automotive display market reached a significant milestone of 200 million units in 2023 and is set to continue its growth trajectory. While, in the short term, the ambition of display manufacturers to transition into Tier 1 suppliers may not dramatically impact their existing automotive display shipments, in the medium to long time, forging robust partnerships with automakers can not only secure steady orders but also boost revenues through the integration of intelligent automotive display modules.

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