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Old 10-02-2005, 07:05   #1 (permalink)
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US:Suppliers key to Ford's hybrid plans;Ford searching for other technology sources

Suppliers key to Ford's hybrid plans; automaker searching for other technology sources

DALE JEWETT | Automotive News

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.'s plan to boost production of hybrids tenfold hinges on it finding more suppliers to produce key parts.

Currently, the suppliers of those parts are in Japan:

>> Sanyo Electric Co. and Panasonic EV Energy Co. for nickel-metal hydride batteries.

>> Aisin Seiki Co., an affiliate of Toyota Motor Corp., for transaxle parts.

Last week, Ford COO Jim Padilla complained that Japanese automakers have been grabbing most of the production of those key parts, which he called a "predatory approach."

The lack of supply has limited the number of hybrids Ford can offer, Padilla said.

Ford and other automakers are searching for other sources of hybrid technology, said Eric Fedewa, director of global powertrain forecasts for CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Spurred on by that demand, a growing number of suppliers are touting hybrid parts.

Those parts were a common sight at the Frankfurt auto show two weeks ago.

Getrag and ZF Friedrichshafen used the show to reveal new designs for hybrid transaxles. Spokesmen at both companies said automakers had shown interest but had not placed orders.

Siemens VDO Automotive touted its electric motors and controllers that could be combined to help create a hybrid powertrain.

Those suppliers also joined Valeo SA and Delphi Corp. in selling parts that would give vehicles start-stop and regenerative braking capabilities -- a milder form of hybrid powertrain at lower cost.

Meanwhile, Johnson Controls Inc. is using its work supplying nickel-metal-hydride batteries from Hannover, Germany, for hybrid buses as a launching pad to sell the technology to automakers.

Johnson Controls also is opening an r&d center in Milwaukee to develop lithium-ion batteries for hybrid autos. Lithium-ion batteries offer improved power and longer life compared with other batteries.

"In the future, we see this being the technology of choice," Johnson Controls spokeswoman Debra Lacey said.

CSM Worldwide's Fedewa predicted that the need for more suppliers and lower costs will prompt Ford to use more starter-alternator systems as part of its hybrid strategy. He said that those systems can be adapted easily to four- and six-cylinder engines.
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