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Deep in the electric-vehicle industry’s supply chain is a little-known Japanese manufacturer that makes a seemingly mundane, but essential, device: coil-winding machines.

If the motor is the heart of an EV, then coils in turn are the heart of the electric motor. Odawara Engineering Co., founded 70 years ago as a supplier for appliance-makers, is an expert in making the dense loops of wire that go into those motors. Tesla Inc., manufacturer of the Model S and Model 3 sedans and most recently the world’s most-valuable automaker, is one of its biggest customers.

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