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The History of Hella

From a Lamp Workshop to Global Supplier to the Automobile Industry

Since 1899, Hella has been setting standards in light technology and electronics / electrical engineering. For increased active safety and driving comfort. Proximity to the customer, research and basic development plus a global manufacturing association will also continue to ensure this in the future. Throughout the world.
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A sign of innovation - For 100 years


Originating from a workshop producing lanterns and cornets in the Westphalian town of Lippstadt, the company today is one of the world's principal partners to the automobile industry, supplying lighting and electrical equipment as well as complete vehicle modules (front ends) with 23,000 employees working at more than 30 manufacturing facilities. The consolidated sales of the Hella Group exceeded the four thousand million Mark limit for the first time in the 1998/99 financial year. Over 1,000 engineers and technicians work in research and development (R & D).

WMI´s founder Sally Windmüller (centre back row) in his Dürkopp car.


One of the world-wide largest trading organisations for automobile lighting and electrical equipment meets the needs of the motor vehicle wholesale trade and car workshops in over 100 countries for replacement parts and attractive accessories. This network of Hella sales organisations is so efficient that even other well-known manufacturers of automobile parts use it to sell their products.


Market leaders in the supply of xenon headlamps and xenon control equipment
The Audi A6, the BMW 5-series, the E class and CLK Mercedes-Benz, the Opel Omega, the VW Passat, the Honda Accord and the Audi S3 are all models for which Hella engineers have developed efficient xenon headlamp systems. They provide 2.5 times the amount of light in comparison with halogen lamps, and use this for a considerably brighter and wider illumination of the roadway as well as a greater range. Hella has a world-wide technological and market lead in the field of xenon headlamps and the associated electronic circuitry.

The most modern, computer-controlled, free-form reflector technology forms the basis of the modern headlamp system with pattern-free cover lenses, mostly made of plastic. Hella is also setting trends in design, for example in the case of the new S-type Jaguar, the VW Bora, the Opel Astra, the Renault Laguna and the Rover 75, to name just a few. Modern combination rear lamps supplied by Hella give cars like the Volvo V80, the Seat Toledo, the VW Golf, the Ford Cougar and the Renault Megane an unmistakable appearance.

Asymetrical light distribution today (top) and potential light distribution based on intelligent headlamp systems (bends)


The future has already begun in the field of lighting technology development. So-called Bi-xenon headlamps, which use the light from a single xenon bulb both for the dipped and main beam, are ready for series production.

Pointing the way further into the future is the intelligent front-end lighting system AFS (Advanced Front-lighting System). The objective is to develop a lighting system that recognises differing driving conditions and automatically provides the optimum light distribution patterns for these. It is expected that this system will be introduced in around the year 2003.


A Europe-wide lead in air-conditioning control equipment and speed regulators
The motor vehicle electrics division is increasingly gaining in importance within the Hella group. It encompasses the product groups heating and air-conditioning, lighting and electronics, bodywork electronics, powertrain control as well as systems and components. Hella is the market leader throughout Europe in the development and manufacture of heating and air-conditioning systems, including their associated sensors and actuators. In addition to the car manufacturers Audi, BMW, Daimler-Chrysler, Porsche, Skoda, Seat and VW, Hella also supplies equipment to the heating and air-conditioning specialists Eberspächer and Webasto.

Air-conditioning control equipment in the Audi TT


By using CAN-bus interfaces, central electronics systems are particularly able to control diverse functions such as central locking, remote control and the interior lighting. The customers for these systems are all European car manufacturers, who are also supplied with Hella developments in the field of powertrain control, including E-Gas systems, turbocharger control units, air-intake control valves and speed regulators. Hella is the European market leader in these fields. The manufacture of systems and components such as sensors, actuators and lighting equipment for official vehicles as well as relays and horns takes place on an international basis.


A world-wide lead in the manufacture of
vehicle front ends

In addition, Hella has been a systems supplier of complete vehicle modules since 1992 with production facilities in Meerane, Saxony and Puebla, Mexico. By 1996, almost 400,000 front-end modules had been manufactured in Meerane for the VW Golf III. Hella has been assembling front ends for the VW Passat (consisting on average of 50 parts with more than 1,000 possible variations) and the current VW Golf IV. In the company's anniversary year, the one-millionth front end will roll off the production lines at Meerane since the factory's inception. In Puebla, Mexico, Hella manufactures the front ends for the VW New Beetle and the Bora. Additional front-end factories in Curitiba, Brazil and Mnichovo Hradiste in the Czech Republic are starting production in 1999. Hella has also won the development contract to produce for the first time the front end for a new Skoda model. Production is scheduled to start in 1999.


Co-operation with Behr
In order to expand further the company's leading position in the supply of front ends and air-conditioning control systems, Hella founded a joint-venture operation in 1999 with Behr, the air-conditioning and radiator specialist based in Stuttgart. Behr-Hella Thermocontrol GmbH focuses on electronics activities in the fields of vehicle air-conditioning and engine cooling. Facilities are available in Lippstadt and Stuttgart for development and production. A new works was specially built in Lippstadt in 1999 for the production of operating and control equipment. The scope of activities at Hella-Behr Fahrzeugsysteme GmbH include development, manufacture and sales of complex vehicle modules. The entire joint operation is controlled by the holding company, Hella-Behr System GmbH, in which each partner has a 50 % share.

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