COMMENT: Particulate filter market growing

COMMENT
Richard Johnson is editor of Automotive News Europe

Demand for diesel-driven passenger cars just keeps rising. For example, Opel says it is will increase production of diesel-powered Merivas at its plant in Zaragoza, Spain, starting in mid-June. Germans are asking for diesel versions of the small MPV at a faster rate than Opel sales executives expected.

Suppliers are trying to keep up with the diesel mandate, too. Both Robert Bosch and Siemens VDO have announced new, "third-generation" common-rail diesel injection systems. And Bosch, the world's leading diesel engine management systems supplier, has begun work on a particulate filter that will be ready to go by 2006.

That's a bit of a surprise since Bosch and other German suppliers have long argued that future emissions standards for NOx and particulates should be controlled by technologies inside the engine, not with after-treatment. Particulate filters have been the left for the French to exploit.

Now Bosch seems ready to join the crowd even though it does not now make exhaust filters. Earlier this year it bought the rights to a new sinter metal filter technology from the German exhaust supplier HJS. In late March, a 20-member team was set up to work on the project. The first development contracts will probably be signed this summer.

By 2006, Bosch expects 1.5 million new cars to have particulate filters in Europe. Bernd Bohr, head of engine management systems for Bosch -- and soon to be in charge of the entire automotive operations -- says the filters will amount to at least a 100 million-euro business by 2006. That's an emerging market Bosch doesn't want to miss out on.

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