TRAVERSE CITY, MICH.-- If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your doorway -- unless the mousetrap happens to be a turbocharger and the world is the North American auto industry.
Despite claims of improved fuel economy, reduced vehicle weight, lower costs and better performance, U.S. automakers have not taken the plunge into turbocharging the way European makers have.
Its baffling, said S.M. Shahed, vice president for advanced technology at Garrett Engine Boosting Systems of Torrance, Calif. I can give you all this, and hand you $300 back for taking it. So why havent the carmakers taken it? I dont know.
Rob Gillette, president and CEO of Honeywell Internationals transportation and power systems, said that some U.S. auto program managers are considering turbocharged engines, although he declined to name the potential customers.
I think theyre biting theyre just not hooked yet, Gillette said yesterday after making a presentation at the Management Briefing Seminars. I think they really are thinking about it.
Last year, Honeywell sold 7 million turbochargers around the world. But 60 percent of them went to European engines and 15 percent went to Asia. Of the 25 percent that were supplied to North American engines, almost all went into commercial trucks and heavy-duty applications, Gillette said.
By contrast, almost one-third of all the European vehicles sold in the United States are turbocharged.
Gillette believes there are reasons to be hopeful about the U.S. turbocharger market. General Motors has developed a new modular family of engines that were designed to accommodate charging, either by turbochargers or superchargers. But GM has not indicated whether those engines will actually include chargers.
Meanwhile, Europe beckons with still more business, Gillette said. Most turbocharging in that market to date has focused on diesel engines. Only about 10 percent of gasoline engines in Europe are turbocharged.
But European automakers face a new mandate to clean up their gasoline engines. Observers expect that to usher in a greater reliance on turbochargers, which reduce emissions.
Gillette predicts the demand for turbochargers will grow to 25 percent of the gasoline-engine market by 2010.
That opportunity will help Honeywell achieve its target of doubling its worldwide turbocharger business over the next five years, Gillette said.