In 1886, Robert Bosch founded the “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering” in Stuttgart. This was the birth of today’s globally operating company. Right from the start, it was characterized by innovative strength and social commitment.
The history of Bosch starts with many first steps. The step into independence, onto the automotive market, into markets outside Germany, and onto the factory floor of major manufacturing.
His apprentice and journeyman years awoke an early desire in Robert Bosch to be self-employed. In 1886, he opened a Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering in Stuttgart. The early years were beset with highs and lows, and it was only from the mid-1890s on that things took off quickly and unstoppably.
From 1897, Bosch started installing better-designed magneto ignition devices into automobiles and became the only supplier of a truly reliable ignition. In 1902, the chief engineer at Bosch, Gottlob Honold, unveiled an ever better solution — the high-voltage magneto ignition system with spark plug. This product paved the way for Bosch to become a world-leading automotive supplier.
The Iron Curtain came down, Asia provided new markets, and software opened up new opportunities for Bosch. The last three decades have brought rapid economic change, which the company has to face head-on.
The fall of the Iron Curtain also heralded a new era for Bosch. By 1994, it had companies of its own in 13 countries of the former Eastern Bloc. Bosch went on to open manufacturing facilities in Jihlava and České Budějovice in the Czech Republic, Wrocław in Poland, Miskolc and Hatvan in Hungary, and Engels and Samara in the Russian Federation. The share of sales generated outside Germany rose from 51 percent in 1990 to around 72 percent in 2000.
With the IXO electric screwdriver, which surprisingly quickly became the best-selling power tool worldwide, Bosch established a new business field in 2003 for small, lightweight devices with lithium-ion batteries. Entirely new fields also emerged, such as e-bicycle drives in 2011. At the same time, Bosch expanded its traditional activities, for example with the buyout of former joint ventures such as ZF Lenksysteme and Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte – which formed the crucial basis for future scenarios such as web-enabled household appliances and self-driving automobiles.