Gentex would agree that competitors never look better than when they are in the rearview. The company focuses on designing, making, and marketing interior and exterior auto-dimming rearview mirrors and camera-based driver-assist systems for the automotive market. It serves customers worldwide, but its largest base includes big carmakers such as Toyota, General Motors, and Volkswagen. Its products are found as standard or optional features on hundreds of vehicle models. To a lesser degree (less than 5% of sales), Gentex also makes dimmable aircraft windows found on commercial aircraft and fire protection products -- including smoke detectors, fire alarms, and signaling devices -- primarily for commercial buildings.
The company's fire protection products are primarily sold to domestic distributors and OEMs of fire and security systems. In its aerospace segment, Gentex began delivering dimmable aircraft windows in 2010 to the production line of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner series and to Hawker Beechcraft for its business-class Beechcraft King Air 350i airplane. Gentex's dimmable window systems are marketed by PPG Aerospace under the brand name Alteos Interactive Window Systems.
Gentex has operations in the US, Korea, Canada, Mexico, China, Hungary, and the UK. Unsurprisingly, the company's largest markets are the leading car production countries of the US (a third of sales), Germany (about a quarter), and Japan (nearly 10%). The company saw double-digit year-over-year growth across all its geographic markets.
Sales and Marketing
The company's top customers are Volkswagen (15% of sales), General Motors and Toyota (each accounting for 12%), and Hyundai and Mercedes (both coming in at 11%). Other clients include BMW, Ford, Chrysler, and Nissan. Gentex markets its products directly to OEMs, as well as through Tier 1 suppliers.
The company's revenue jumped 25% in 2011, surpassing $1 billion for the first time in its history. Sales in its automotive segment were strong both domestically and internationally as auto-dimming mirror shipments increased across the board. Gentex's smaller segments, aircraft windows and fire protection equipment, increased 29% and 2%, respectively.
On the strength of the company's revenue, net income rose about 20%, hitting $165 million.
To boost production capacity and support growth in its core geographic territories, Gentex is busy making investments in its facilities. It constructed a new technology center adjacent to its headquarters in Zeeland, Michigan, and it is making a number of facility upgrades and renovations. The investments support the company's optimistic sales forecast and anticipated growing demand for high-tech, camera-based automotive products, such as Gentex's rear camera displays, which consist of a liquid crystal display (LCD) that works with a rear-mounted video camera to provide a rear view while backing up, and its SmartBeam high-beam assist system, which uses a camera-on-a-chip to maximize forward lighting while eliminating the task of turning the high beams on and off manually. Both are integrated into Gentex auto-dimming mirrors.