The Shanghai center will be Tenneco's 15th worldwide. Others include four in the United States, four in Europe and one in Japan. Tenneco's headquarters is in Lake Forest, Ill.
Currently, only the r&d centers in Grass Lake, Mich., and Edenkoben, Germany, have the ability to make a complete evaluation of an exhaust system. Grass Lake has 104 engineers, and Edenkoben has 127.
The Shanghai center eventually will join those ranks after it opens in December with 20 engineers.
"Our vision for this is it could become the core engineering center in the entire world," Frissora says. "You can engineer basic products a lot cheaper here."
He declined to reveal Tenneco's investment in the Shanghai center, which is a joint venture with Shanghai Tractor and Engine Co., a subsidiary of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.
Jackson envisions more than just an r&d role for the Shanghai site. "The amount of saving on product validation testing is huge," he says.
Technicians who test products to see whether they are ready for production cost as little as $8 an hour in China, compared with $50 an hour in Western countries, he says.
One of the first pieces of equipment Tenneco will install shakes catalytic converters to test for durability.
A customer already has asked whether the Shanghai center can do worldwide testing for a global platform.
Ramping up the Shanghai center's capabilities will take time, Frissora admits.
Chinese engineers have "great technical talent" but need additional training, he says. Four engineers just left Shanghai to spend one year at the Grass Lake center. More will follow.