DETROIT - In an industry where brake technology is dominated by a handful of giant suppliers, NewTech Group International is barely a bump on the pavement.
That seems to be fine with NewTech.
The low-profile Canadian supplier holds a patent on what it calls full contact disc brakes.
It is a method of stopping a turning wheel not by merely exerting pressure against it at strategic points, but by gripping 360 degrees of the discs at all four wheels simultaneously.
NewTech announced Monday, March 5, that it has landed the contract to supply the full contact technology to a Renault-Mack truck project being developed in France. The project will install the brakes on Class 8 Renault trucks in Europe and the Mack version of the trucks built in the United States.
But NewTech will take only a licensing fee on the business, allowing another brake manufacturer to produce and deliver the brakes. Renault will select which of NewTech's global competitors will fulfill the contract, representing about 20,000 vehicles a year.
'This is the way we prefer to do it,' said Yvon Rancourt, COO of the Blainville, Quebec, supplier. 'We prefer to focus on research and development and prototyping. We will handle small-volume manufacturing, and leave any medium or large-volume manufacturing business to the others.
Those others include some of the auto industry's biggest suppliers: Delphi Automotive Systems Corp., Robert Bosch Corp., Siemens Automotive Corp. and Aisin AW Co. Ltd. But Rancourt believes there still is room for a technical innovation such as NewTech's, even in a highly consolidated industry where big players commit millions of dollars annually to r&d.
The family owned company developed and patented the full contact technology in the late 1970s, but spent a decade studying whether the concept was practical or financially feasible.
In the early 1990s, the company began trying to sell the technology to the world's automakers but with no success.
That appears to be changing, Rancourt said. 'Today the industry is facing a minicrisis in sales. When you face a small crisis like this, you often look for something new.'
The brakes also have been used in racing in the North American Motorola Cup series. This year, NewTech will supply the brakes as standard equipment on the Saleen S7 sports car.
With a sticker price of $375,000, the ultra-high performance Saleen S7 will sell just 100 units this year - 50 in the United States and 50 in Europe.