The KOSTAL company history is the solid foundation on which we are building our future.
Turbulent times, the world is in upheaval and the First World War is looming. These were the times in which Leopold Kostal founded the “Processing facilities for technical insulation” in Lüdenscheid and, with a workforce of eight people, starts producing connectors and switches.
In 1926, the year of the first Mille Miglia and the first “Black Friday” in German history, Leopold Kostal made the courageous and far-reaching strategic decision to start manufacturing products for the automotive industry by developing the first direction indicator. The direction indicator developed by Leopold Kostal for automobiles is one of the first of many patented innovations by KOSTAL, which today can be found in vehicles of virtually all of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers.
The first KOSTAL new building is completed in Wiesenstraße in Lüdenscheid. The number of employees grows to 120.
Dark times in Europe, the world is just starting to recover from the major global economic crisis, the Weimar Republic has collapsed, National Socialism is gaining momentum in Germany. In Lüdenscheid, Kurt, the son of Leopold Kostal, joins the company, and they make the joint decision to concentrate on developing and manufacturing products for the automotive industry.
Due to the war, the number of employees fell to around 150 by 1945. At the end of the war, production ceased entirely and KOSTAL was only permitted to resume production in 1947, and began with 40 employees.
A massive boom in Germany as a result of the “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) is also experienced by the automotive industry. KOSTAL develops and launches the first patented switch panel on the European market.
With a further patented innovation, the dimmed headlight, KOSTAL once again provides a ground-breaking impulse for the automotive industry.
The tangible growth and success of KOSTAL is reflected in expansions and the founding of new production facilities. The first subsidiary is built in Halver – several kilometres from the main headquarters in Lüdenscheid. Although KOSTAL expands internationally over the following decades to extend its customer base, the company emphatically remains headquartered in Germany. The 12th German subsidiary in Hagen therefore opens 45 years after the founding of the first subsidiary in Halver.
KOSTAL celebrates its 50th anniversary and looks back on half a century of history which has seen many changes. Despite all economic and political crises, KOSTAL has succeeded in growing continuously and, with countless innovations, has established and consolidated its market position as supplier to the automotive industry.
Dipl.-Kaufmann Helmut Kostal joined the 3rd generation of the company.
KOSTAL expands its product portfolio and develops the first electronic products. As the products become more compact and complex, the more rapid the rate of expansion of the company also becomes due to its considerable technical expertise.
A decisive year in the history of KOSTAL that guides its destiny. Despite the oil crisis, Watergate affair and the Vietnam War, Helmut Kostal made the decision to found the first overseas KOSTAL plant in Mexico to allow the company to grow internationally.
KOSTAL establishes the “Sensors” product range and in turn has the opportunity to revolutionise the automobile market by developing a patented innovation: the first door control unit with pinch protection.
As a result of the rapid growth, KOSTAL urgently requires new production areas and makes the decision to build a completely new plant “An der Bellmerei” in Lüdenscheid in three phases (1979 / 1984 / 1988), and this is still the company headquarters today.
KOSTAL presents the automotive industry with the first commercially available rain sensor, another innovative milestone in automobile applications.
The company decides to apply the considerable technical expertise acquired over decades in the automotive industry in other markets. This decision made by KOSTAL to diversify was marked by the founding of the Automotive Electrical Systems, Industrial Electronics and Testing Technology (SOMA GmbH) business divisions. In 2005, the Connectors and Industrial Electronics business divisions become standalone private limited companies.
“simplicity out of complexity”. The more complex the functions are the greater the challenge to develop simple, reliable and cost-effective solutions for the specific application. This is where the history and the knowledge of the company and its employees acquired and continuously developed over many decades really comes into its own. What were simple switches in former times have over the decades developed into complex modules, the KOSTAL steering column modules for example, which have made us a market leader and are testament to our integration expertise. In 1998, KOSTAL revealed the first mechatronics module – the W220 steering column module for the Daimler S-Class.
KOSTAL is granted the patent for the front-end camera for driver-assistance systems. KOSTAL therefore becomes a pioneer in the development of driver-assist systems and autonomous driving, once again demonstrating its innovative prowess.
35 years have passed since KOSTAL founded its first overseas production facility in Mexico. KOSTAL now has facilities in 21 countries across 4 continents with employees from 50 home countries speaking 45 languages and has therefore established a global presence for its customers as world market leader for many of its products.
Dipl.-Oec. Andreas Kostal joins the company as 4th generation member of the Kostal family. Two years later, Helmut Kostal officially “hands over the baton” and role of Managing Director to his son Andreas. This is also typical for KOSTAL: a timely and carefully prepared transfer from one generation to the next which ensures that experience acquired is also passed on and that new impulses are generated.
KOSTAL celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the company with many guests, customers, suppliers, public figures from all over the world and, most importantly, with all of its employees who have shaped the history of the company and made it what it is today. And the future? We are sure that KOSTAL will also successfully carry its history forward into the future because it adheres to its values, one of which is: “Building the future, today.”
First automatic emergency brake function based on a mono camera.
Efficient charging of battery vehicles in large vehicle platforms in series production.