MAEBASHI, Japan -- NSK Ltd., a Japanese auto supplier best known for its ball bearings, sees a big future in electric power steering as carmakers rush to boost fuel economy.
But its engineers are avoiding steer-by-wire technology now coming to market. Instead, they will stick to the basics and roll out new computer tweaks that make steering safer.
Sales of electric power steering will soar, they say. Worldwide deployment will skyrocket 72 percent to 79 million vehicles in 2018 from 46 million in 2013, NSK says.
Assuming NSK merely keeps its 20 percent global market share in the technology, its sales of electric power steering should leap about 74 percent to around 16 million units a year in that five-year period.
Electric power steering uses no hydraulics. Instead, an electric motor, cued by signals from the steering wheel, turns the wheels.
Globally, electric power steering will take the lion's share of steering applications. Today, it accounts for 58 percent of the world market, with traditional hydraulic power steering still being the go-to solution for emerging markets and big vehicles.
But global penetration should climb to 80 percent in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018, the Japanese company predicts.
Even in North America, just 59 percent of vehicles today are equipped with electric power steering. But that will soar to 89 percent in the next four years, as automakers seek to reduce the load on the engine and as electric power steering improves to handle bigger vehicles, NSK forecasts.
NSK's rivals for electric power steering contracts include Nexteer Automotive and TRW Automotive of the United States, ZF Friedrichshafen AG of Germany and Japan's JTEKT Corp.