Software is becoming an increasingly important functionality of automobiles that determines consumer choice. That is changing the model of the industry: car manufacturers are turning into technological companies with their own large software teams. That evolution will have a direct impact on Bulgaria as an automotive supplier. Some of the global giants already have software and engineering centers here and new leading players are expected to enter the market.
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Software and engineering companies in Bulgaria have been working for years as subcontractors for automotive producers. Some of them are direct Tier 1 suppliers, such as Visteon Electronics Bulgaria (formerly Johnson Controls). With about 800 staff members, it has the largest engineering team, including some 500 software developers, as well as hardware and mechanics experts. The center in Sofia develops and tests technologies for car dashboards, displays, multimedia devices and communication modules. The company has supplied solutions to almost all big car manufacturers.
The company with the biggest number of software developers working for the automotive industry is also a subcontractor: Bosch. "We currently have more than 550 engineers in our center. For the past three years and a half our team has quadrupled and we plan to continue growing by more than 100 people a year," Bulgarian subsidiary Robert Bosch's CEO Konstantin Konov said. In his words, the local team provides software and hardware solutions for modern and future automobiles and e-bikes in areas like driver assistance systems, automated driving, AI and electric mobility. "The center is working on more than 60 projects for all big automotive manufacturers in the world," he added. Besides the engineering center, Bosch Group has another technological subsidiary in Bulgaria, Bosh.IO, which develops software in the area of IoT, cloud solutions and vehicle-to-cloud connectivity.
The progress made by the automotive software sector in Bulgaria has encouraged car manufacturers to enter the market directly. The first car giant to open its own center was Daimler (in late 2021). The investment was made through MBition, the subsidiary responsible for the software development of all models of Mercedes-Benz. It was set up in 2017 and currently has some 700 engineers in its locations in Berlin, Sindelfingen and Sofia. The team of the Bulgarian subsidiary, MBition Sofia, already has 50 engineers - and is hiring.
Daimler will certainly not be the last big manufacturer to open a software center in Bulgaria. According to information obtained by the Capital Weekly, other giants are also considering investments and setting up their own development teams here. The eyes are now set on CARID, the software division of Volkswagen Group, which is still choosing a location for its next center. CARIAD representatives were in Bulgaria in early June, when they opened a forum of Automotive Cluster Bulgaria. The group has some 5,000 developers worldwide and its European centers are based in Wolfsburg, Ingolstadt, Stuttgart, Berlin and Munich. If it chooses Bulgaria, the company will most probably invest in a big office, because its ambitions are to quickly grow to 10,000 developers worldwide.
Industry source say that companies from North America are also considering Bulgaria as a location for their software centers."