Perhaps most interesting is Ford's development of a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder gasoline engine equipped with a turbocharger. The 120-hp engine powers the Ford Start, a small concept car that debuted in April at the Beijing auto show.
Ford says it will introduce the powertrain in an as-yet-unidentified European model. Coincidentally, Continental says a customer, which it did not identify, has ordered its three-cylinder gasoline turbocharger, which will be produced next year.
Is Continental supplying Ford? Neither company will say. But Ford does appear willing to use cutting-edge technology, says Roger Wood, president of BorgWarner's engine group.
"Ford is really out in front with a commitment to turbochargers," Wood said. "We think the other guys will take a strong look at turbochargers, too."
Indeed, GM is offering Honeywell turbochargers on the new Chevrolet Cruze, which will get up to 40 mpg. Volkswagen, BMW and Hyundai also offer turbochargers on a variety of cars.
Until recently, mass-market turbochargers were a European phenomenon. Roughly half of the light vehicles sold in Europe are diesels, and virtually all diesels are turbocharged.
The same three suppliers -- BorgWarner, Honeywell and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries -- dominate both the North American and European light-vehicle markets.
In Europe, BorgWarner says, it accounts for 41 percent of light-vehicle turbocharger sales, while Honeywell and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries account for 34 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
In North America, which is a much smaller market for turbos than Europe, BorgWarner says it accounted for 57 percent of total sales in 2009, while Honeywell and Mitsubishi generated 30 percent and 4 percent respectively.