The KOSTAL company history is the solid foundation on which we are building our future.
Turbulent times, the world is undergoing radical change and World War I is looming large. It is in these turbulent times that Leopold Kostal founds his “Processing facility for technical isolation” in Lüdenscheid and he and his eight members of staff start producing plugs and switches.
1926, the year of the first Mille Miglia and the first “black Friday” in German history. Leopold Kostal takes the brave and long-lasting strategic decision to move into the automotive industry with the first ever turn indicator, which he developed himself. The automotive turn indicator developed by Leopold Kostal is one of the first of many patented innovations from KOSTAL. These days, they can be found in the vehicles of almost all the world’s leading automotive manufacturers.
KOSTAL’s first new building on Wiesenstrasse in Lüdenscheid is completed. The workforce grows to 120 members of staff.
Bleak times in Europe, the major global economic crisis is just behind us, the Weimar Republic has failed and national socialism is gaining momentum in Germany. In Lüdenscheid, Leopold Kostal’s son Kurt joins the company, and together they make the decision to concentrate on developing and manufacturing products for the automotive industry.
By 1945, the workforce has fallen to around 150 due to the war. Production stopped completely at the end of the war and only in 1947 does KOSTAL obtain approval to recommence production and starts up again with 40 members of staff.
The German “economic miracle” arrives and with it a boom in the automotive industry. KOSTAL develops the first patented switch panel and launches it onto the European market.
Another patented innovation, the dipped-beam headlight, sees KOSTAL again creating pioneering momentum for the automotive industry.
Expansion and the founding of new production sites are a clear indication of growth and success at KOSTAL. The first subsidiary – just a few kilometres away from the head office in Lüdenscheid – is set up in Halver. Even though KOSTAL will expand internationally over the coming decades to keep pace with its customers, the company is clearly committed to its German roots. 45 years after the first subsidiary was founded in Halver, the 12th German subsidiary is opened in Hagen.
KOSTAL celebrates its 50th anniversary and can look back over a varied history spanning half a century. Despite all the economic and political crises, KOSTAL has managed to grow continuously and through numerous innovations to extend its market position as a supplier to the automotive industry.
Business School Graduate (Dipl.-Kfm.) Helmut Kostal is the third generation of the family to join the business.
KOSTAL expands its product range and develops its first electronic products. The smaller and more complex the products, the more the company expands, building on its distinct technological expertise.
A fateful and decisive year for KOSTAL. Despite the oil crisis, Watergate scandal and the Vietnam war, Helmut Kostal decides to open KOSTAL's first plant abroad in Mexico in order to expand internationally too.
KOSTAL grows the “Sensors” product sector and again manages to revolutionise the automotive market with another patented innovation, the first door control unit with an obstruction sensor.
As the company is growing fast, KOSTAL urgently needs more production space, so it decides to build a completely new plant “An der Bellmerei” in Lüdenscheid. There are three stages to this build (1979/1984/1988), which has remained the company’s headquarters to the present day.
KOSTAL presents the automotive industry with the first rain sensor and is therefore able to reach another milestone in innovations for automotive applications.
Building on the technological expertise which the company has acquired over the decades, the company decides to shift the focus of this expertise into markets other than the automotive industry. KOSTAL therefore diversifies and sets up the Automobil Elektrik, Industrie Elektrik and Prüftechnik (SOMA GmbH) business divisions. In 2005, the Kontakt Systeme and Industrie Elektrik business divisions are converted into independent private limited companies.
KOSTAL aims to “simplify complexity”. The more complex the functionalities, the greater the challenge is to develop products which reliably and simply fulfil all these functionalities in practice, while also having an as attractive cost as possible. The significance of the company’s history and the knowledge which KOSTAL and its employees have retained, tried and tested and continuously developed over the decades really comes to the fore here. Over the decades, what was once a humble switch has become a complex module; a statement which rings true for the KOSTAL steering column modules, which make us market leaders. In 1998, KOSTAL launches the W220 steering column module for the Daimler S-Class; the first mechatronics module.
KOSTAL is granted the patent for front view cameras for driver assistance systems, making KOSTAL a trailblazer in driver assistance systems and autonomous driving, once again demonstrating its culture of innovation.
It is 35 years since KOSTAL opened its first site abroad in Mexico. Since then KOSTAL has grown and now has sites in 21 countries across four continents with staff from 50 different countries, speaking 45 different languages and therefore it maintains a global presence for its customers as a global market leader in many of its products.
Graduate economist (Dipl.-Oec.) Andreas Kostal is the 4th generation of the Kostal family to join the business. Two years later, Helmut Kostal officially passes on the baton and management of the company to his son Andreas. And this is typical of KOSTAL: the change of generations is painstakingly prepared in good time to ensure that experiences are passed on and new momentum is created.
KOSTAL celebrates its 100th anniversary along with a large number of guests, customers, suppliers, public figures from all around the globe, but most importantly with all its employees, who have helped to shape the history of the company. And going forward? We firmly believe that the history of KOSTAL will feature many more success stories because it stands by its values, one of which is: "Building the future today”.
The first automotive emergency braking function based on a monocamera.
Efficient charging of battery-powered electric vehicles in large vehicle platforms as a series application.