lush with cash from the sale of a majority stake in a climate-control business, Visteon Corp. appears ready to dip its toe into the fast-growing market for collision-avoidance technologies.
Specifically, Visteon is thinking about adding night vision and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications to its product portfolio, says company CEO Sachin Lawande.
In a phone interview with Automotive News, Lawande said he doesn't plan to develop a complete collision-avoidance system in competition with companies such as Continental AG, ZF-TRW and Denso Corp. But he said he is eyeing product niches that remain up for grabs, such as night vision, vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and vehicle-to-vehicle data links.
"We will focus on technologies where we have room to differentiate," Lawande said. "We have to be careful to pick our areas of focus."
To do so, Lawande says he expects to acquire companies that possess key technologies. "We are in the market," he said. "We are short in three or four technologies that could benefit from an acquisition."
Visteon recently completed the sale of a 70 percent stake in Halla Visteon Climate Control to Hahn & Co. and Hankook Tire, a deal valued at $3.6 billion. Visteon intends to return most of that money to investors, Lawande says, but the company still will have sufficient funds for acquisitions.
When Visteon was spun off from Ford Motor Co. in 2000, its portfolio included glass, climate control, bumpers, fuel tanks, axles, steering components, in-vehicle entertainment, navigation systems, headlights and a grab bag of other components.
Now the company focuses on six technologies related to cockpit electronics: instrument clusters, head-up displays, information displays, infotainment, connected radios and telematics.
To stay on the cutting edge, Visteon is developing two new technologies -- gesture controls and eye-gaze tracking -- that would help motorists adjust cockpit controls.
For gesture control, an in-cabin infrared camera tracks the motorist's hand movements to control features such as navigation, audio or climate control without touching any knobs.
Other suppliers also are developing gesture-control technology. For example, the 2016 BMW 7-series sedan allows the motorist to turn up the audio volume with a clockwise finger rotation.
Lawande, who moved to the top post after prior CEO Tim Leuliette retired in June, wants to enter this segment over the next five years or so as gesture controls become cheap enough for mass-market models.
Another promising Visteon product: an eye-movement tracking system dubbed HMeye. By glancing at icons on the instrument cluster, the motorist can summon displays of a map, music selections or phone lists. Infrared cameras track the motorist's eye movements.
For this technology, Lawande hints he might seek acquisitions to bolster his portfolio of infrared cameras and software.
Head-up displays are another promising revenue generator. When Visteon acquired Johnson Controls' cockpit electronics unit last year for $265 million, it gained a portfolio of HUD technology.
Lawande says Visteon has contracts to produce inexpensive "combiner" HUDs, which reflect their images off a rectangle of glass mounted behind the steering wheel. "We are at the point where a combiner HUD is no longer expensive," Lawande said. Over the next five years or so, "we can envision that it will be standard equipment."
In the near future, however, Visteon's big revenue generator is likely to be LightScape, its new instrument cluster.
LightScape features a reconfigurable display that might include a map, audio or phone list, or simply a basic speedometer and tachometer. The unit's software also can accommodate over-the-air updates, Tesla-style.
One other feature: Automakers could, if they wish, let motorists browse a menu and select a particular "look" for their cluster. Does the motorist prefer a retro speedometer from a 1965 Mustang? No problem.
Since Visteon is the world's third largest producer of instrument clusters -- behind Continental and Denso -- a successful rollout could generate considerable revenue.
Said Lawande: "We feel we have ample room to innovate." c