DETROIT -- Global platform sharing and safety regulations are driving automotive technology at a frenetic rate. Supplier TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. says it can capitalize on this trend with its safety technologies.
For example, TRW offers lane-keeping assist technology, which steers a car toward the middle of a lane when a camera sees a driver is drifting toward a divider line.
The industry downturn cut TRW's global revenue 23 percent in 2009. But the suburban Detroit supplier has rebounded. For the first nine months, revenues jumped 30 percent to $10.67 billion and net income was $630 million, compared with a loss of $86 million a year earlier.
TRW's largest business lines are chassis systems and occupant safety systems. But its active safety electronics segment -- the company's smallest -- is poised to grow the most from the globalization trend in platforms and safety rules. The segment accounted for only 5 percent, or $600 million, of its global sales of $11.6 billion last year
'A great enabler'
"The march toward global platforms has enabled suppliers to commonize components across a wide array of global vehicles, and the amount of divergence in regulations is closing every day," said Michael Robinet, director of global production forecasts at IHS Automotive Group in suburban Detroit. "That becomes a great enabler for TRW."
TRW isn't the only supplier benefitting from those trends. Other suppliers of active-safety gear include Continental AG, Takata Corp., Denso Corp., Robert Bosch GmbH and Delphi Automotive.
One side effect of global platforms is that new technologies are being rolled out in previously low-tech markets, Robinet said.
"Electronics are a whole new area of expansion because of common vehicle architecture," he said. "The fact that the world is getting smaller is a good thing for the proliferation of technology."
The global market for camera-based lane departure warning or assistance systems is small now but will continue to grow, said Martin Thoone, TRW's vice president of electronics engineering.
"The majority of the business will remain in Europe and Japan," he said. "But we're predicting a quarter of the business will be in North America by 2014."
Europe accounts for 58 percent of TRW's business. North America makes up 26 percent, and the rest of the world accounts for 17 percent. … Read more