PARIS -- French supplier Valeo SA has contracts with six customers for its fuel-saving stop-start system, giving the supplier a big jump on its rivals.
Record oil prices are pressuring automakers to reduce fuel consumption. In Europe, the Citroen C3, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Getz are using Valeo's combined starter-alternator.
Pierre-Alain de Smedt, Renault's purchasing and marketing chief, says the French automaker plans to offer a stop-start system on one of its small or lower-medium-sized cars such as the Modus or Megane. He did not say if Renault's supplier would be Valeo or one of its competitors.
"We are likely to announce three more orders in the next four to six weeks," Valeo CEO Thierry Morin said last month at the Paris auto show.
Other parts makers competing for stop-start business include Robert Bosch GmbH, Continental AG, Siemens VDO Automotive, ZF Sachs, Denso Corp. and Magneti Marelli S.p.A.
Visteon Corp. is working with several European automakers that it says are interested in its SpeedStart 12 version of the technology.
Automakers tend to equip smaller cars with a stop-start system because they are most commonly driven in congested areas. A stop-start system cuts off the engine when the brake is applied. It restarts the engine when the driver takes his or her foot off the brake.
If cars in city centers spend one-third of their time standing still, a start-stop system can save 6 percent to 12 percent of fuel, Morin estimates. It also reduces traffic noise.
Stop-start is an environmental statement by Renault rather than a self-serving financial investment, de Smedt says.
Reducing fuel consumption also cuts carbon dioxide emissions that are suspected of contributing to global warming. European Union authorities are pressuring automakers to lower those emissions.
A stop-start system costs manufacturers about $616, de Smedt says. Even if manufacturers pass that cost to consumers without a profit, it would take more than 62,000 miles of urban use to generate equivalent fuel savings and recover the cost, he estimates.
Adds de Smedt: "And that's in the best of cases."