Nice car -- but can you make the parts smaller?

The big automotive technology question for the next several years is this: How do you make it smaller?

Smaller transmissions, smaller air conditioners, smaller wiring systems, smaller heat exchangers, alternators and even engines. That's what engineers across the global supply chain and their auto-making customers will be wrestling with for the foreseeable future.

""Smaller," clarifies Terry Helgesen, head of North American sales and marketing at Denso International America, "but it still has to do the same job. Or an even better job."

Automakers around the world, in mature markets and emerging markets alike, are moving to smaller vehicles. And whether it's a customer in India or a customer in Germany, both want a heated vehicle with a navigation system and air bags. Providing all that in a big SUV or a roomy sedan is one thing, Helgesen notes. Fitting it all into an A-segment car is going to be something else.

"How can we make it more compact, less expensive, more efficient, but still better?" he asks. "It's going to be a challenge for all of us."