"If somebody is looking at just North America and Europe, you're looking at static new-vehicle markets, but even at that, there's a tremendous amount of content that adds revenue," says Jim Gillette, analyst for CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills, Mich.
Gillette says companies that develop features their customers will pay a premium price for will win. For example, driver and passenger airbags have become a commodity. But extra airbags, such as side curtains or knee bolsters, are promoting growth for companies such as Autoliv Inc.
"There are more and more sensors and actuators," Gillette says. "The whole market in the developed countries has gone nuts relative to driver features - power sliding doors in minivans. You've got this huge motors market."
A supplier of power sliding door and liftgate mechanisms - Mitsui Kinzoku of Japan - was the fastest growing company in the top 100, with a worldwide sales increase of 59.0 percent over 2003 to $1.14 billion.
Suppliers that can develop such electronic gizmos that replace mechanical functions will gain in this market, says Dave Royce, manager of corporate strategy for Siemens VDO Automotive Corp. in Auburn Hills, Mich. Siemens, No. 10 on the list with global revenue of $11.6 billion, supplies electronics and software.
"I don't think you're going to see a lot of growth in areas where people are providing fundamental hard parts for vehicles," Royce says. "There are only so many axles being made. But a company involved in something like emerging restraint system technology will have more opportunities."
One innovator, Robert Bosch GmbH, leapfrogged Delphi in 2004 to become the world's largest supplier, measured in dollars. Bosch's revenue grew 17.2 percent to $27.2 billion. Bosch is a big player in electronics. Bosch benefited from the strength of the euro against the dollar.
Bosch of Germany grew 6.3 percent to 21.8 billion euros in 2004 from 20.51 billion euros in 2003. Bosch used a euro conversion rate of $1.24 for 2004 and $1.13 for 2003. Similarly, Faurecia grew 5.9 percent to 10.7 billion euros in 2004.