Fully digital screens are replacing speedometres and dials in vehicles, making industry leader Japan Display Inc. optimistic about boosting sales to global carmakers.
While most new models usually have a centre information panel for maps, entertainment and other functions, manufacturers are also increasingly replacing the dashboard facing the driver with a flat screen. Look inside the latest BMW or Mercedes-Benz, chances are Japan Display made the panel.
Replacing instrument clusters with screens is challenging, because they need to be more reliable and withstand swings in temperature, while providing critical information for the driver. That also makes them more expensive and lets display suppliers demand higher margins, making them an attractive enterprise. Japan Display, the world’s biggest supplier of panels in cars, is betting that the shift to electric vehicles will make screens the key selling point for any car as drivers pay more attention to the interior aesthetics of automobiles than what’s under the hood.
“It used to be all about the engine — how many cylinders, how much horse power, the sound of it — but with electric vehicles that’s all gone,” Holger Gerkens, who heads JDI’s automotive business, said. “How do you create attraction? You can do a lot with displays.”
Digital dashboard also offer advantages for drivers, for example changing the style and amount of information for different driving modes, making maps more prominent when needed. They are mostly used in high-end cars made by Audi, Mercedes-Benz and some supercar manufacturers.
JDI’s automotive operations generated $900 million in revenue in the last fiscal year, about 14 percent of its total. The company forecasts sales will grow 40 percent by March 2020. JDI, which already supplies about 30 percent of the European car market, is expanding in the US, Japan and China, Gerkens said. That could be welcome news for investors.
The Japanese company controlled 19 percent of the $6.7 billion global market for automotive displays last year, according to IHS Markit. LG
Display was second with 14 percent.
“It’s a combination of high variety and low volume, but the automotive business could potentially offer higher margins,” said Damian Thong, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd.