Once upon a time...
The history of REBO Germany
Together with his sons Christoph and Friedrich, Otto Schlothauer founded Otto Schlothauer and Sons OHG in Ruhla. They produced meerschaum goods and wooden articles in their small factory. In 1883, Christoph and Friedrich changed their name to C. & F. Schlothauer OHG and now, with ten to fifteen workers, produced metal haberdashery before they started producing gas/water fittings and electrical installation material shortly before the turn of the century.
Alfred Schwarz founded the Alfred Schwarz metal works in Eisenach and began to manufacture carbide and kerosene lamps, ball horns and candle lamps for horse-drawn carriages under the MELAS trademark. With increasing demand for electrical devices, the focus was on the development of vehicle electrical products: Tail and stop lights, car indicators and windscreen wiper systems were now part of the extensive product range.
Not only C. & F. Schlothauer was able to assert itself with fittings for the automotive industry and bicycle accessories. With the MELAS car indicator, Alfred Schwarz brought a bestseller onto the market: in 1932, 1 million automobiles were equipped with direction indicators. At the end of the 1930s, both were involved in armaments production, and the manufacture of war-critical products was the focus of all entrepreneurial activities
At the end of the war, the factories were placed under Soviet administration. The reconstruction was followed by the production of the pre-war range. MELAS dynamo hand lamps as battery-free flashlights became a hit on the dark streets of the post-war period. The first alternator was produced in Ruhla as early as 1947. With the transition to public ownership, the company was now known as Electrical Vehicle Equipment Ruhla (EFR) and Car and Bicycle Electrics Eisenach (AUFA).
Other company names followed before the Eisenach and Ruhla plants merged in 1958. The VEB Fahrzeugelektrik Ruhla – FER for short – was born. The increasing demand for products for the entire vehicle construction of the GDR expanded the production program steadily. FER manufactured starters, alternators, wiper motors, flashers, rotating beacons, flashing, brake and tail lights, bicycle lighting systems and much more under the new brand name "AKA".
The combine VEB Fahrzeugelektrik Ruhla was formed to concentrate business units in certain sectors. Thus, all processes from product development through production to sales were combined. Numerous extensions to previously independent companies allowed the combine to grow continuously. The number of employees rose to 6,500 and as early as 1971 the 25 millionth bicycle light was produced
FER was a series supplier for the entire vehicle electrics of the GDR and the production facilities meanwhile extended to 45 locations with 10,000 employees. About 30 percent of the products, such as headlights, fanfares and rotating beacons, were exported to more than 50 countries. A large part went to the Soviet Union and other countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, but also to Western European car manufacturers such as VW, Seat and Peugeot.
Growing demand for vehicle electronics and batteries required rationalization measures - entire production lines were automated. The range now consisted of headlights, lights, trumpet horns, starters, ignition and windshield wiper systems, bicycle lighting systems and much more. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, public property was placed under trusteeship. A time of uncertainty began: the question of the future was in the air.
VEB Fahrzeugelektrik Ruhla was converted to FER Fahrzeugelektrik GmbH, with the Treuhandanstalt being a 100% shareholder. A declaration of intent to set up a joint venture had already been agreed with Robert Bosch GmbH. A cooperation agreement was concluded and with the founding of Robert Bosch Fahrzeugelektrik Eisenach GmbH, core areas such as headlights and wiper motors as well as the training workshop were outsourced.
New sales areas were developed, cable production started and the AUFA Auto- und Fahrradelektrik GmbH was founded. After 45 years of socialist ownership and 2 years of fiduciary administration, FER was returned to private ownership on July 1, 1992. Klaus Lantzsch and Jonni Bachmann became managing partners and invested in a new plant in the Stockhausen commercial area. Production started there in 1994.
5 years of FER Fahrzeugelektrik GmbH in Eisenach and "90 years of bicycle lighting systems from Eisenach". At the same time, FER was awarded the innovation prize for the "12 volt bicycle spoke dynamo" and was the first manufacturer of LED side indicators for the VW New Beetle. In addition to 530 employees at the Eisenach site, there are subsidiaries in Chemnitz and Barcelona, as well as cooperation partners in Mexico, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Brazil and Vietnam.
In October, 100% of the shares in the company were acquired by Truck-Lite Co., LLC. acquired, one of the largest suppliers of light, cable and mirror systems for trucks and trailers in the USA. In 2008, FER was given a new name – Truck-Lite Europe GmbH – for a uniform image of the organizations in Europe. The products continued to be manufactured under the FER trademark. In the same year, Stephan Pfingsten became managing director of the company.
New development projects and orders were acquired, including roof modules for Audi. The "LED attachment optics for light bundling, light control and light distribution in roof modules" achieved first place in the plastics award of the International Society for Plastics Technology for outstanding development achievements in lighting technology. The corporate design was revised under the motto 'Back to the roots' and the 'old' FER logo was used again.
On November 2nd, the workforce celebrates the takeover of Truck-Lite Europe GmbH from the Chinese company REBO. The location in Eisenach/Stockhausen becomes REBO Lighting & Electronics GmbH. In 2018 and 2019, new orders from well-known and new car manufacturers, e.g. B. BMW, Daimler and Lucid acquired.