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DETROIT, Aug 20 - The investment surge by both newand established automakers in the electric vehicle market is abonanza for factory equipment manufacturers that supply thehighly automated picks and shovels for the prospectors in the EVgold rush.
The good times for the makers of robots and other factoryequipment reflect the broader recovery in U.S. manufacturing.After falling post-COVID to $361.8 million in April 2020, neworders surged to almost $506 million in June, according to theU.S. Census Bureau.
Here's a graphic on U.S. manufacturing new orders: https://tmsnrt.rs/3lVyhlM
New electric vehicle factories, funded by investors who havesnapped up newly public shares in companies such as EV start-upLucid Group Inc are boosting demand.
"I'm not sure it's reached its climax yet. There's stillmore to go," Andrew Lloyd, electromobility segment leader atStellantis-owned supplier Comau, said in an interview."Over the next 18 to 24 months, there's going to be asignificant demand coming our way."
Growth in the EV sector, propelled by the success of TeslaInc, comes on top of the normal work manufacturingequipment makers do to support production of gasoline-poweredvehicles.
Automakers will invest over $37 billion in North Americanplants from 2019 to 2025, with 15 of 17 new plants in the UnitedStates, according to LMC Automotive. Over 77% of that spendingwill be directed at SUV or EV projects.
Equipment providers are in no rush to add to their nearlyfull capacity.
"There's a natural point where we will say 'No'" to newbusiness, said Comau's Lloyd.
For just one area of a factory, like a paint shop or a bodyshop, an automaker can easily spend $200 million to $300million, industry officials said.
'WILD, WILD WEST'
"This industry is the Wild, Wild West right now," JohnKacsur, vice president of the automotive and tire segment forRockwell Automation, told Reuters. "There is a mad raceto get these new EV variants to market."
Automakers have signed agreements for suppliers to buildequipment for 37 EVs between this year and 2023 in NorthAmerica, according to industry consultant Laurie Harbour. Thatexcludes all the work being done for gasoline-powered vehicles.
"There's still a pipeline with projects from new EVmanufacturers," said Mathias Christen, a spokesman for Durr AG, which specializes in paint shop equipment and saw itsEV business surge about 65% last year. "This is why we don't seethe peak yet."
Orders received by Kuka AG, a manufacturing automationcompany owned by China's Midea Group, rose 52% inthe first half of 2021 to just under 1.9 billion euros ($2.23billion) - the second-highest level for a 6-month period in thecompany's history, due to strong demand in North America andAsia.
"We ran out of capacity for any additional work about a yearand a half ago," said Mike LaRose, CEO of Kuka's autogroup in the Americas. "Everyone's so busy, there's no floorspace."