Auto supplier TRW Inc. is poised to capitalize on major growth opportunities in Europe's steering and braking systems aftermarket.
TRW is already a leader in the European braking systems aftermarket through its 1999 acquisition of United Kingdom auto parts maker LucasVarity PLC.
Next spring, TRW will launch a steering and suspension program in the aftermarket to take advantage of big changes that it sees coming.
TRW wants to become the leading player in the chassis systems aftermarket, a company spokesman said.
The steering systems aftermarket is dominated by power rack-and-pinion systems. But TRW predicts a widespread shift to electrical steering systems in Europe in the next few years.
'Right now, the aftermarket here is fragmented,' said TRW spokesman Martin Turner. 'It is not original-equipment-based, it is not pan-European, and it tends to be low-quality.'
TRW, of Cleveland, is a market leader in original equipment steering systems. Turner said technological developments in steering would progressively push companies that produce replica products into the low end of the aftermarket.
In the future, TRW expects that most steering systems will be more clearly optimized for each vehicle variant.
Custom applications for each vehicle will be made with advanced plastics and metal alloys selected for individual vehicle application.
An aftermarket supplier will need to invest in a much bigger product range and greater technical capabilities in order to compete, Turner said.
For TRW, 'as the leading original equipment supplier, it is very easy for us to go straight from original equipment applications into the aftermarket,' Turner said. 'We are not even replicating.'
Automotive News ranks TRW as the world's seventh-largest supplier of original equipment parts, with 1999 original equipment sales of $11.0 billion.
To meet new European standards, TRW also has launched a new program of brake friction materials.
Beginning April 1, 2001, new European standards will be required for brake pads for vehicles that were introduced after October 1999.
The tougher standards are expected to give original equipment suppliers in this area a technological advantage.
TRW expects this pressure for improvement to continue.
Said Turner: 'The European Union has said that, from 2003, all heavy metal will be banned in these components. Public concerns about pollution and safety are going to have an increasing impact in the aftermarket - just as up until now they have had an impact on the original equipment market.'