The global automotive industry is at a crossroads, with a collective commitment to sustainability becoming no longer a choice, but a necessity. Hichem Elloumi, CEO and Chairman of Coficab Group, understands this imperative and is actively contributing to the industry’s sustainable transformation.
Coficab Group was established in 1992 by Elloumi, and is part of Tunisia’s biggest industrial and exporting group. Its parent company, Elloumi Group, was founded by his father, Taoufik Elloumi.
Over three decades, Elloumi has grown the company from a small-scale producer to a global leader in the production and supply of cables and wires for the automotive industry. Today, it has almost 20 percent of global market share and is at the forefront of many global megatrends, such as electromobility, connectivity, autonomous driving and sustainability.
In the next three-to-five years, Elloumi’s goal is to focus on these big trends, with the most important being the shift toward a greener future.
“The automotive industry is really committed to going carbon neutral and to have 100 percent electric vehicles in Europe by 2035,” he explains. “This is a very big challenge.”
Nurturing Sustainable Growth
As is the case for many industries, the challenge to achieve net zero and build more sustainable practices is a long road with many bumps along the way. Woven into that is Coficab Group’s plan to maintain its position as a global supplier. Already present on four continents – Europe, North America, Africa and Asia – and with 17 industrial facilities, it certainly has laid the foundations upon which to do so.
And, with the industry quickly pivoting away from traditional combustion engines to electric – a shift that Elloumi describes as “a huge transformation, full of challenges and uncertainties” – Coficab Group is in an excellent position to support its electric car manufacturer clients.
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“Coficab is the leader today in producing cables for electrical vehicles, specifically high voltage cables,” Elloumi explains. As electric motors replace combustion engines, the vehicles require the exact cabling that the company makes. However, some leading manufacturers are doubting the sector’s ability to produce fully electric vehicles by 2030 to meet the European Union’s legislation. Elloumi agrees it will be difficult.
“In order to meet this target, we need to have the electricity produced from renewable energy, and we’re not sure we’ll have 100 percent renewable energy in 2035,” he admits.
Regardless, Elloumi and Coficab Group have pledged to develop and maintain more sustainable business practices, something that he is very proud to work toward.
“We are committed to sustainability and are a member of the United Nations Global Compact,” Elloumi says, referring to a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments to implement sustainable practices in their businesses.
This commitment extends beyond the company’s immediate operations, shaping its role as a responsible global corporate citizen. But the focus on sustainability isn’t merely a response to market trends; it’s a proactive stance toward ensuring the longevity of the industry and the planet.
“Investing in sustainability is an investment in our future.”
“We are acting to increase our mixed electrical energy and produce our own electricity using photovoltaic panels, but also to use recycled materials and have products that are sustainable themselves,” Elloumi says.
“Our processes and production are becoming more and more sustainable, and we have a strong plan to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Alongside his work with Coficab Group, Elloumi is a founder of the Africa Business Leaders Coalition. “This is an initiative from the United Nations to lead the private sector in Africa to be more sustainable,” he explains.
Elloumi’s commitment also goes beyond Coficab Group’s operations, and he hopes to contribute to the broader discourse around green practices in the African business landscape.
But Coficab Group intends to extend well beyond the borders of Africa. The company has been the first African automotive business to invest in Mexico, he says, establishing facilities to manufacture cables in Durango, Silao and Ciudad Juarez. Yet, this pioneering spirit isn’t just about expanding operations; it’s about carrying the torch of sustainability into new territories.
“Investing in sustainability is an investment in our future. It’s not just about staying relevant; it’s about leading the way toward a greener, more sustainable automotive industry,” Elloumi explains.
Lessons for Global Success
How did the company, now in its third generation of family leadership, come to span continents? Elloumi points to three major learnings.
One decision was to embrace the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic and the last couple of years, with all the crisis with chips, raw materials, transportation and energy, many companies did not want to invest much,” he says.
However, Coficab Goup, guided by its family-owned ethos, invested significantly in the electromobility space.
“To be the leader worldwide, we need to have the best suppliers.”
This foresight placed the company as the sole automotive cable maker capable of supplying cables for electromobility at a global scale. The investment in new equipment, R&D and cutting-edge technology not only futureproofed Coficab Group, but also positioned it as a leader in an industry undergoing profound transformation.
Another, he says, is the company’s agility, particularly when it comes to decision-making.
“I work with a very strong team,” he says. “I have very close professional relationships, which means I can make decisions really fast.
“This is an advantage because sometimes our competition is saddled with bureaucracy, which makes it difficult to move on good opportunities. Coficab is always ready to take fast decisions when we see that there is an opportunity to be better, more efficient, more competitive and more innovative.”
But perhaps most importantly, Elloumi recognizes that the heart of Coficab Group’s success is its relationships.
“Having a team and employees that are really committed to the company is how we can explain our global presence,” Elloumi says. “This is also linked to our customers, which are global companies. The key to our success is to work in partnership with our customers and our suppliers.”
He calls strategic suppliers, such as Cunext Copper Industries, wire drawing machines manufacturer Niehoff Schwabach and production technologies leader Rosendahl Nextrom, the Coficab Group “backbone”, in terms of innovation and growth.
Most of Coficab Group’s suppliers have been with the company since the beginning.
“In general, it’s a long-term relationship,” he explains. “Some have been with us since 1992. So, these are really long-term partnerships that help us to support our customers, and that have supported us by providing the best technology so we could become more global.”
That’s why Coficab Group is always seeking innovation in its suppliers as well. “To be the leader worldwide, we need to have the best suppliers, and to have a partnership, because Coficab is innovating daily,” Elloumi adds.
This innovation isn’t a solo endeavor; it’s a collaborative effort with suppliers who understand and align with Coficab Group’s vision for sustainability and technological advancement.
Responsible Global Citizenship
Beyond the realms of corporate success and industry leadership, the company places a strong emphasis on social responsibility. Yet, the commitment to social responsibility is not just a tagline for Coficab Group; it’s a guiding principle that shapes the company’s entire operations.
“Our success is not just about financial metrics; it’s about the positive impact we have on our employees, communities and the environment,” he emphasizes.
The work it has done on building a healthy workplace shows, having been the recipient of multiple accolades over the years. It was awarded the ESR 2019 distinction for corporate social responsibility and several Great Place to Work awards between 2014 and 2020.
“Our slogan is ‘Powered by Passion’,” he says. “This is our slogan and it’s one of our values. Also, our ethics are very important. We are all committed to maintaining our values in our strategies, business plan and vision.”
We are all committed to maintaining our values in our strategies, business plan and vision.”
With every innovation, every strategic decision and every commitment to sustainability, Coficab Group is not just adapting to change, it’s actively steering the course of the automotive industry toward a future that is technologically advanced, as well as environmentally conscious and socially responsible.
In a world where the automotive landscape is undergoing a radical transformation, Coficab Group is quickly rising as a global force, proving that sustainable business practices are not just a choice, but a powerful catalyst for enduring success.
Elloumi’s leadership, coupled with Coficab Group’s commitment to innovation, underscores this pivotal role in shaping a sustainable future for the automotive industry – and us all.
The Elloumi Group was founded in 1946 as an electrical equipment manufacturer. By 1965, Elloumi’s father had diversified into the production of wires and cables for energy and telecommunications.
Elloumi explains that he joined the family business in 1977 after studying in France, where he received an engineering degree from the prestigious L’Ecole Polytechnique de Paris and l’Ecole Supérieure de l’Electricité (Supélec).
“I started in the cable plant as a technical manager with my father and went on to hold several strategic positions such as leading operations, leading distribution and electrical contracting,” he recalls.
Noting that Tunisia had become a hub for wiring harnesses for automotive cables, the idea for Coficab Group was sparked in Elloumi in the early 1990s. “What started as a local company has, three decades later, become the worldwide leader in its field,” he says.