The competition for rear-wheel steering systems in sport-utilities has two suppliers locked in battle, with round one going to Delphi Corp.
General Motors is offering Delphi's Quadrasteer as standard equipment on the 2002 GMC Sierra Denali and as an option on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
In 2003, Quadrasteer, which controls rear-wheel steering electronically, will be an option on the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon, said Jim Parks, GM purchasing spokesman.
Delphi, of Troy, Mich., is the first supplier to have its rear-wheel steering system in production.
Quadrasteer gives a large pickup or sport-utility the turning radius of a small car. That makes it easier to park, back up a trailer and drive in the city.
Behind Delphi is American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. of Detroit, which is developing a rear-wheel steering system it hopes to demonstrate this summer.
American Axle's system is different from Delphi's, said Renee Rogers, the supplier's media-relations coordinator. She wouldn't say how it's different because it's still in development.
At stake are millions in revenue. David Leiker, an analyst for Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. in Milwaukee estimates that Delphi stands to gain $300 million in annual revenue from Quadrasteer business.
But the flip side is that American Axle loses each time a sport-utility is built with a Quadrasteer system. American Axle stands to lose about $100 million in annual revenue because Dana Corp., of Toledo, Ohio, supplies the axle for Quadrasteer.
So American Axle's rear-wheel steering strategy is offensive and defensive, said David Cole, president of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
For American Axle, "it increases the value of what they sell, and you don't want to cede ground to somebody else," Cole said.
Rogers wouldn't address Leiker's numbers but said American Axle isn't concerned about the revenue loss because of Quadrasteer.
"We have our own programs, and none of that is changing," she said.
Cole said by being first to the market, Delphi's profit margin on Quadrasteer will be high until other competitors get their systems on new vehicles.
Delphi said it's aware that its exclusive status may be short-lived.
"I think it's heating up," said Carrie Wright, product publicity manager for Delphi's Saginaw Steering Systems.
"We're first to market with steer-by-wire, but I'm sure the competition is close behind."
The only question is whether consumers will warm to the feature, Cole said.
"It's pretty sensational technology," he said. "Will consumers pay for it? It's too soon to tell. When it comes out, people tend to rush to buy it, then it dries up.
"My guess is the value of this is pretty high, and I think you'll see a solid base."
Terry Kosdrosky is a staff reporter for Crain's Detroit Business, a sister publication to Automotive News.