Gentex’s secret is catering to Japanese needs, especially those of Toyota, the country’s biggest automaker, said Kazuhiko Nishijima, managing director of Gentex’s Japan unit. That means obsessing over quality, fostering close communications and offering cutting-edge technology.
For instance, Gentex benchmarks its quality control off Toyota Motor Corp.’s Kyushu assembly plant, which makes Lexus vehicles and has some of the industry’s highest quality specifications.
“It’s just so stringent; if you can clear those specifications, you’re OK with the European luxury makes and the Japanese, too,” Nishijima said at the supplier’s local headquarters here.
Among foreign suppliers, Gentex was a relatively early bird in Japan, setting up shop in 1998. And instead of opening offices in Tokyo, Gentex went straight to Toyota’s backyard, knowing that proximity to the country’s top automaker would open doors.
Gentex also embeds engineers in the R&D labs of Japanese automakers, another rarity for overseas suppliers. It has guest engineer relations with Toyota, Subaru and Nissan. The engineers work at the manufacturer and sometimes actually get paid through the carmaker. When those engineers return to Gentex, they typically get big raises because of the added insight they bring with them.
Gentex also isn’t shy about bypassing purchasing departments to pitch its technology straight to a vehicle program’s chief engineer. It understands that, in Japan, chief engineers pull the strings for their vehicles, often overseeing everything from design and planning to production and sales.
“They are the top of the food chain,” Nishijima said.
Finally, Gentex feeds Japan’s hunger for new technology. Aside from the Full Display Mirror and the built-in digital video recorder, Gentex has another new offering on tap for Japan.
It is a system that uses three cameras to create an integrated view of the sides and rear of a vehicle. The setup positions two cameras inside the side mirror housings, in addition to the rearward facing camera, and beams the image to the rearview mirror.
By leveraging the side cameras, it improves visibility while allowing for smaller sideview mirrors. That, in turn, improves aerodynamics and styling.
Gentex jointly developed the system with Aston Martin and showed it at the 2020 CES in Las Vegas. Gentex aims to introduce a version for Japanese customers soon.