Mahle GmbH, a major supplier of engine parts, is trying to break free of its image as a maker of pistons, rings and other internal parts. Its 2005 acquisition of Cosworth Technology Ltd. expanded its offerings to include complete engine design and manufacturing, testing and calibration. Ulrich Wittwer, Mahle Powertrain Ltd.'s CEO, spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett.
Mahle beefs up powertrain services
What I would like is for people to see Mahle Powertrain as one of the engineering service providers helping the manufacturers to make their cars more efficient, better driving and more lively.
Mahle is focused on gasoline engines. We have done some development work on diesels, but we think we are not necessarily the diesel specialists. Regarding hybrids, our strength here in Detroit is the calibration of drives and vehicles. I don't think that we as Mahle or Mahle Powertrain will enter the electrical side of hybrids. We still believe our main focus is on combustion engines.
How to keep up high-quality work with the cost level which is acceptable on a global basis. We provide engineering services out of high-cost countries. We really have to think how we can go on with that while the trend is to go down in cost and price. We really have to establish more engineering capabilities in low-cost countries. We already have tech centers in Brazil, China and soon in India.
What we have to do is look at the whole system, not only the engine itself, but the gearbox — a very important thing — and the whole drivetrain. As cars have been developed in recent years, their weight has increased. Today you are running a 5,000-pound car with one person onboard, which makes no sense. The change in paradigm has already started in Europe that you get fuel economy not only by tweaking the engine but by looking at the whole content of the car.
It will have variable valve timing, direct injection, turbocharging and more. We think there will be all kinds of hybrids, full hybrids, microhybrids and supercapacitors for energy recovery. Perhaps we will see some fuel cell cars in 20 years.
I wouldn't say so, because high performance doesn't always mean 6.0 liters and 600 hp. It can also be 1.0 liter and 150 hp with very low fuel consumption. I would like to call it high efficiency.
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