Auto software supplier Elektrobit adding high-tech jobs in Farmington Hills

Alisa Priddle|The Detroit Free Press

Automakers want the best navigation, infotainment and driver-assist systems for their vehicles, and supplier Elektrobit is expanding its Michigan presence to meet that demand.

The Finnish software and engineering company, listed on the NASDAQ QMX in Helsinki since 1998, expanded into the automotive sector in 2004 with the acquisition of 3Soft in Erlangen, Germany.

Elektrobit — or EB as it is referred to — opened a two-person automotive office in Novi in 2005 in the hopes the Michigan office with a staff of five would win business from Detroit’s automakers. That augments the office in Bothell, near Seattle, for the wireless side of the business.

Two years later, EB became the software integrator for Ford Sync and in 2008, GM sourced HMI technology, which refers to interfaces such as touch screens, digital gauges, haptics, 3D maps and voice-recognition systems to control infotainment, navigation and climate controls in a vehicle.

EB provides software tools, but not the actual hardware.

Delphi and Panasonic also became customers, and Elektrobit twice moved into larger offices in Novi.

In December, EB moved to its current 10,000-square-foot office in Farmington Hills and the staff has burgeoned to about 50 in Michigan with plans to increase further in the next year. The company has secured an additional 6,000 square feet to support future growth.

“With Michigan being the headquarters for so many automakers, we are definitely looking at substantial growth in Michigan,” said Manuela Papadopol, global marketing manager, based in Seattle.

“I recognize the importance of having local people who know the local market. This is crucial in automotive,” Papadopol said. “I need to rely on local talent, and that’s something I’m looking to grow. As a company we will continue to grow and invest.”

Between Farmington Hills and Seattle, Elektrobit has almost doubled its U.S. work force in 18 months to about 100, Papadopol said.

“We are constantly growing and expanding the team here,” she said. “We’re looking into adding more than 100 high-tech jobs over the next year,” she said, roughly split between the two offices.

Radhika Holowko, an original Novi employee, expects that much of the engineering and software development, as well as testing, will be based in Farmington Hills while marketing will be based in Seattle.

Holowko, business development manager for the automotive infotainment unit, said it is easier to find people with testing and project-management backgrounds but not as easy to find software specialists in Michigan.

Globally, Elektrobit has grown from 330 employees in 2004 to more than 1,000.

The automotive division had sales of $124 million in 2011, and the company invests more than 14% of its budget in research and development annually.

EB supplies driver-assistance programs for Mercedes-Benz, Audi and an undisclosed U.S. automaker.

Elektrobit is the global supplier of navigation software for the VW Group and will soon add a major U.S. automaker, as well, Papadopol said. EB also works with tier one suppliers.

“We will always be expanding and enhancing the business and the team here,” Holowko said.

Contact Alisa Priddle at 313-222-5394

More Details: Elektrobit

U.S. auto division headquarters: Farmington Hills

U.S. employees: about 100 split between Farmington Hills and Seattle’s wireless division

Annual sales: $124 million for auto division in 2011

Website: automotive .elektrobit .com

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