Tenneco's decision to focus on shock-absorber technologies that could be on the market within five years is paying off in new business, said Josep Fornos, general manager of original-equipment ride control in Europe.
Two years ago, Tenneco stopped work on some complex active and semi-active systems to focus on technologies offering benefits within a five-year time scale.
One is integrating electronics into shock absorbers, said Fornos.
"It is a clear trend," he said.
Suspension modules increasingly include sensors that detect the position of the body, the movement of the wheels, the pace of acceleration and steering angle. Vehicle ride-control software uses the data to control damping levels inside shock absorbers.
Tenneco has co-developed a high-performance system called Computerised Electronic Suspension with Sweden's Ohlins Racing. The system gives a better response time and more stability and comfort, said Fornos.
Tenneco has contracts with Volvo and Audi for the technology.
Another area of development is lightweight shocks.
Tenneco expects a limited market for shocks made completely of aluminum or other light metals, but sees growth potential for hybrid shocks that offer a moderate amount of weight saving at an acceptable price.
Technology is also shifting to so-called "green shocks," where oil in the shock absorber is replaced with air. Tenneco calls it frequence-dependent damping. The shocks adjust damping according to the frequency of vibration to give a more stable ride.
This technology will be ready in 2005. Fornos expects it to be applied to upper- and lower-medium segment cars, as well as high-end models.