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Corporate history

New lines of business and electronics

1960–1989

10 mins read

The 1960s through to the 1980s were marked by transformation at Bosch, turning it into a diversified group with self-managed divisions, a global company, and the market leader in automotive electronics.

Drawing of a stylized structure indicating the development of different business divisions.

New structure — divisions are formed

Between 1950 and 1960, the number of Bosch associates increased from 15,000 to 70,000. The centralized structure of a medium-sized enterprise no longer sufficed, and so during the 1960s the business fields gradually became more independent, starting with the Power Tools division. During this time of economic boom and full employment, Bosch made acquisitions in other sectors and thousands of associates were retrained to manufacture automotive electrics.

Hammer drills are assembled for heavy-duty construction work at the Bosch plant in Leinfelden. (1956)
Hammer drills are assembled for heavy-duty construction work at the Bosch plant in Leinfelden. (1956)
This brochure’s front cover shows that washing was still considered women’s work at that time — with the children allowed to watch. (1963)
This brochure’s front cover shows that washing was still considered women’s work at that time — with the children allowed to watch. (1963)

From hydraulics to packaging

Even if the automotive industry in the most important market for Bosch at that time, western Europe, was booming, the diversification drive into other sectors was still important. After moving into mobile hydraulics, medical electronics, and radio technology during the 1950s, Bosch bought into a packaging machinery company in 1963 and expanded its activities with further acquisitions to form the Packaging Technology division.

The subsidiary Höfliger & Karg, part of the Packaging Technology division, developed this machine, which was capable of manufacturing 1,400 coffee-cream single-portion pots per minute. (1982)
The subsidiary Höfliger & Karg, part of the Packaging Technology division, developed this machine, which was capable of manufacturing 1,400 coffee-cream single-portion pots per minute. (1982)
Production of regulators for automobile generators in the Reutlingen plant. (1964) Reutlingen was the site of Emil Gminder AG, a textile manufacturer Bosch took over in 1964.
Production of regulators for automobile generators in the Reutlingen plant. (1964) Reutlingen was the site of Emil Gminder AG, a textile manufacturer Bosch took over in 1964.
Ignition coil production in Blaichach (1964). Following the collapse of the region’s textile industry, Bosch offered the former workforce new career prospects.
Ignition coil production in Blaichach (1964). Following the collapse of the region’s textile industry, Bosch offered the former workforce new career prospects.

The founder’s legacy — the Robert Bosch Stiftung

The Bosch family home on a hill in eastern Stuttgart is now the headquarters of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, which was founded in 1964.
The Bosch family home on a hill in eastern Stuttgart is now the headquarters of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, which was founded in 1964.
The new Bosch head office on the Schillerhöhe near Stuttgart replaced the outgrown old premises in the city center in 1970.
The new Bosch head office on the Schillerhöhe near Stuttgart replaced the outgrown old premises in the city center in 1970.
Drawing of molecule structures symbolizing research and development at Bosch.

Research, development, and acquisition — with the power of innovation

Bosch pooled its research and development resources in a new research center in 1968. This combined effort was needed to germinate the ideas that Bosch later turned into the innovative products that gave it the competitive edge. From the mid-1960s, the company’s own research institutes also focused on special projects, such as integrated circuits.

Testing components in the cold chamber is part of research and development so as to ensure Bosch technology will stand up to the harshest of winters. (1959)
Testing components in the cold chamber is part of research and development so as to ensure Bosch technology will stand up to the harshest of winters. (1959)
From the mid-1960s, semiconductor components, such as this board for an electronic control unit, grew from sidelines at Bosch into best sellers in the millions. (c. 1965)
From the mid-1960s, semiconductor components, such as this board for an electronic control unit, grew from sidelines at Bosch into best sellers in the millions. (c. 1965)
Testing power electronics for electric vehicles (1967). At that time, the electronics for electrically-powered automobiles still took up much of the trunk space.
Testing power electronics for electric vehicles (1967). At that time, the electronics for electrically-powered automobiles still took up much of the trunk space.
The Bosch IBM 370/model 15 mainframe in Schwieberdingen had 100 kilobytes of storage capacity and a water cooling system that used 150 liters of refrigerant. (1970)
The Bosch IBM 370/model 15 mainframe in Schwieberdingen had 100 kilobytes of storage capacity and a water cooling system that used 150 liters of refrigerant. (1970)

The Jetronic

Board of a Jetronic electronic control unit for gasoline injection in the electronics laboratory at Schwieberdingen Technical Center near Stuttgart (1970)

Electronics take over

In 1959, Bosch started to develop an electronically controlled gasoline injection system. The Jetronic was the first system of its kind in the world to go into mass production in 1967. It was first used in the U.S. versions of the Volkswagen 1600 LE and TLE. Thanks to Jetronic, the VW 1600 was able to satisfy the comparatively strict environmental regulations that had been introduced in the U.S. State of California.

Photo: Board of a Jetronic electronic control unit for gasoline injection in the electronics laboratory at Schwieberdingen Technical Center near Stuttgart (1970)

Semiconductors and the computerized car — electronics at Bosch

The determination of the researchers and managers to turn electronics into a linchpin of the company started to pay off from the 1970s, and that originally uncharted territory has shaped the entire company’s success to this day. A prime example of this is the ABS antilock braking system launched in 1978, which Bosch turned into a technical standard in automotive engineering thanks to its expertise in digital electronics.

The Bosch ABS engineering team tested the potential of the antilock braking system on a frozen lake in northern Sweden (1975).
The Bosch ABS engineering team tested the potential of the antilock braking system on a frozen lake in northern Sweden (1975).
Cross-section of the combustion chamber in a gasoline engine with Motronic electronic engine management. The new system combined electronic ignition with injection, thus making it possible to optimize how the engine runs.
Cross-section of the combustion chamber in a gasoline engine with Motronic electronic engine management. The new system combined electronic ignition with injection, thus making it possible to optimize how the engine runs.
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Thinking global — a new start in the U.S. and Asia

In the United States, the world’s largest economy, it took till 1983 for Bosch to get the full usage rights reinstated for its own brand. This freed the way for the company to regain its former sales success. In Asia, Bosch established its presence in a special way. It manufactured high-quality goods, such as photographic and video technology, more cost-efficiently in countries such as Malaysia. It also formed joint ventures in key markets such as Japan. Bosch started manufacturing electronic gasoline injection there in 1973 and the ABS antilock braking system in 1984.

Associate briefing at the Bosch location in Nasik, India (1973). Bosch has been manufacturing diesel injection technology here since the early 1970s.
Associate briefing at the Bosch location in Nasik, India (1973). Bosch has been manufacturing diesel injection technology here since the early 1970s.

The lambda sensor

Function testing of lambda sensor prototypes in Schwieberdingen Technical Center (1975)

Sensitive sniffers

In 1969, Bosch experts started developing a sensor for measuring exhaust gas, which established itself within a good decade following initial teething troubles. Nowadays, environmentally friendly combustion engines are no longer conceivable without the lambda sensor, which went into production in 1976. This Bosch innovation was the prerequisite for exhaust treatment using three-way catalytic converters. The lambda sensor measures the oxygen content in the exhaust gas upstream of the catalytic converter. This value, which constantly fluctuates dramatically according to the driving situation, is used by the electronic control of the injection system to adjust the composition of the gasoline-air mixture. The system’s accuracy ensures complete combustion, which enables the catalytic converter to optimally clean the exhaust gases. This can reduce harmful emissions by up to 90 percent.

Photo: Function testing of lambda sensor prototypes in Schwieberdingen Technical Center (1975)

Telecommunications — a new focus

At the start of the 1980s, Bosch ventured into telecommunications and started constructing technology for space satellites and cell phones and implementing public and private telecommunications networks. After two successful decades of this sector generating up to 25 percent of the company’s sales, unfavorable developments prompted Bosch to withdraw from several segments. The Security Systems division continued in business and remains successful to this day.

Bosch OF4 car telephone (1983). Bosch had run a radio technology section since 1954, which developed the first car telephones. In the 1980s, these were as expensive as a compact car.
Bosch OF4 car telephone (1983). Bosch had run a radio technology section since 1954, which developed the first car telephones. In the 1980s, these were as expensive as a compact car.
Bosch Telecom emergency call center (1991). With its acquisition of Telenorma AG and ANT GmbH, Bosch became one of the leading telecommunications suppliers of the 1980s.
Bosch Telecom emergency call center (1991). With its acquisition of Telenorma AG and ANT GmbH, Bosch became one of the leading telecommunications suppliers of the 1980s.

Robert Bosch: The man, the employer, the visionary