Dana: Tech, lightweight parts to drive growth

Pyle: 10 percent annual increases in parts sales

TOKYO -- Rising demand for crossovers and SUVs will fuel double-digit sales growth of light-vehicle drivetrain components at U.S. auto supplier Dana Holding Corp., a top company executive said.

Dana expects sales of parts such as axles and propeller shafts to notch annual increases of 10 percent over the next three years, Bob Pyle, global president of the company's light vehicle drivetrain technologies division, told Automotive News.

Asia and Latin America will be the hot markets for his unit.

The Maumee, Ohio, company will focus on reducing component size and weight to meet stricter fuel economy standards, Pyle said.

Dana also will open a technology center this spring in Cedar Park, Texas. It will employ 80 people and aim to commercialize a new kind of torque converter for transmissions that uses continuously variable planetary, or CVP, technology.

The device operates like a continuously variable transmission. But instead of the belts and pulleys of a conventional CVT, it uses a series of ball bearings placed between two rings. Changing the angle of contact between the bearings and the rings causes the inner and outer rings to spin at different speeds.

The goal is better fuel economy.

Dana licenses the technology from Fallbrook Technologies Inc., also of Cedar Park, which says its CVP device can deliver 5 percent better efficiency if paired with an automatic transmission.

It won't be market-ready for another five years, Pyle said.

"We've been doing a lot of engineering and commercialization work and discussions with a number of interested customers," Pyle said. "We see potential here for this style of CVP to help increase fuel economy and the efficiency of power transfer. We see it as very scalable from the light vehicles to off-highway."

Pyle was in Tokyo to commemorate the founding of Dana's Japanese subsidiary, Dana Japan, 30 years ago. Today, the company has six operations and more than 250 people in Japan, spanning manufacturing, engineering and sales.

To win customers in Asia, Dana has set up two technical centers and opened two factories over the past year.

Dana opened one tech center in Wuxi, China, in March 2013, and another in Pune, India, in January 2014. It also broke ground on a new gear factory in Thailand last September and opened a driveshaft plant in India in December.

Dana ranks No. 26 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with worldwide parts sales to automakers of $7.22 billion in 2012.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com -- Follow Hans on Twitter: @hansgreimel

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