Linked with tradition – committed to the future: Franz Kiel GmbH celebrates its 70th anniversary

Nördlingen, 16.10.2015 – Founded as a metalworking company in 1945 in Nördlingen, Bavaria, Franz Kiel GmbH is today one of the leading European manufacturers for seating systems for commercial and public passenger transport vehicles in local, regional and tourist travel by bus or train, and delivers its products worldwide. In 2015, the company is celebrating its 70th anniversary – and reflectíng on an eventful and extremely successful history.

1945-1960: Initial years and specialisation

In 1945, Franz Kiel GmbH was founded in Nördlingen as a small metalworking company specialising in the design of iron parts. Just three years later, the company established a manufacturing plant in which metal parts, furniture and vehicle equipment were manufac-tured. The purchasers for these products were, for example, Mercedes-Benz, Maschinenfabrik Augsburg Nürnberg (MAN) and Magirus Deutz.

Increasingly, the main fi eld of business crystallised into the pro-duction of metal parts for the seat construction of HGVs and omnibuses. In the 1950’s, Franz Kiel GmbH already employed 120 employees and manufactured in particular rigid, non-adjustable passenger seats.In 1956, things began to change in terms of our products with the Greyhound seat for buses: It was the fi rst seat with an adjustable backrest and was also laterally extendable.


1960-1980: Growth through product range expansion and large-scale orders

From the beginning of the 1960’s, Kiel concentrated on omnibus manufacturers as their main customers. In order to improve comfort, the bus seats were extended by components such as armrests and foot supports.The first large-scale orders stimulated the growth of the company the consequence of which was that our staff increased to 200 employees. The company’s own workshops were also increased accordingly: In 1965, a powder-coating and wet painting facility were added. In the mid-1970’s, Kiel received its fi rst large-scale orders from the Deutschen Bundesbahn (German Federal Railway), which spurred on the growth trend for the company.


1980-1990: Breakthrough with innovative products

In 1980, Kiel achieved a major breakthrough in the passenger business with the construction of seats which prevented noise development, and adjustable elements which were long-lasting and durable. In 1981, with the Kiel 1, Kiel developed the fi rst single-part, self-supporting plastic pan seat for city buses which was manufactured in an injection moulding process. Its successor, the Kiel Linie, provided more comfort with a seat and back cushion. This variant came onto the market in 1985 and was also used in trams.After the production of single seat components became increasingly more complex, the company began to develop and produce complete seats and seating systems from 1983 onwards. Extensive investments were made in a high bay warehouse and in painting and powder coating processes. At the end of the 1980’s, Kiel introduced welding robots and CNC-controlled facilities which further increased the effi ciency of the company. Initially specialised mainly in manufacturing bus seats, at the end of the 1980’s Kiel began to position itself as a serious competitor in the field of passenger seating for railways – initially for regional railways and trams; the fi eld of long-distance trains came later. In 1989, the company clearly declared its commitment to its place of birth, Nördlingen, and constructed a new administration building, a new warehouse and a new stamping facility.


1990-2011: The path to becoming a global player

By the beginning of the 1990’s, the company had reached a magnitude which enabled it to extend into the global market. The increasing concentration of both buyers and sellers also contributed towards the development of an international group of companies. Kiel had already paved the way for this at an early stage, and followed a consistent international expansion strategy. First of all, the company formed cooperations, for example in Spain and Italy, where exclusively Kiel products are still built today. By 1996 the fi rst subsidiary plant had already been founded in Turkey, and a year later Kiel Polska (Poland) was and a year later Kiel Polska (Poland) was opened up. In 2000, the acquisition of the company Deco Seating took place in the Netherlands and was renamed Kiel B.V., and in 2001 Kiel France s.a.r.l. was added. With the foundation of Kiel N.A. LLC in the USA in 2009, Kiel executed an important strategic step for the development of the significant North American market. In Russia, the company formed a joint venture in 2011 with KFK OOO, a regional manufacturer of railway components, which also enabled them to enter this market. Furthermore, various other cooperations and licence agreements with local seat manufacturers were concluded in different countries. Besides international expansion, Kiel established strict Quality Management in the 1990’s in order to further optimise products and production processes. In 1993, an internal upholstery facility and the new field of surface technology were set up. In 1997, Kiel made important investments in product development and design in order to further reinforce its leading position in the development of innovative seating which fulfi lled the highest requirements around the globe. However, even this was not enough: By the end of this decade of significant developments, Kiel had increasingly moved from being a component supplier to being a system supplier: The development, production, delivery and assembly of complete seating systems for buses, trams and trains became ever more comprehensive.

Today, the company is faced with new challenges: In these highly mobile times, the market demands the maximum possible efficiency, and intelligent solutions which cover all eventualities of modern passenger transport. Weight reduction in order to save on CO2 , accessibility and the interlinking of the seat and individual mobile passenger devices are amongst the most important topics and Kiel is working on these with their customary professionalism. However, sustainability regarding production methods and products also plays a significant role, and Kiel takes this into account, for example, through economic and environmentally-friendly modular construction systems, the components of which can be flexibly assembled, easily repaired and recycled in the best possible manner.

This tradition-steeped company is optimally positioned for the future thanks to 70 years of experience, professionalism and dedication, a strong international network and optimum technical prerequisites at different production locations in various countries.

In spite of all this internationalism and success, Kiel is still deeply rooted in Bavarian Nördlingen: Even today, this remains the focal point of their activities; here the Management headquarters and Central Development are located, and manufacturing also takes place at this location. In 2012, Kiel substantiated its intention to remain by investing in a new production hall for train seat production. We are ready for the future!


Press Contact:

Franz Kiel GmbH

Josef Vega

Director Sales and Marketing

Nürnberger Straße 62

D-86720 Nördlingen

Telephone: +49 (0) 90 81 / 21 03 - 123

Fax: +49 (0) 90 81 / 21 03 – 151

Email: j.vega@kiel-sitze.de