July 23, 2024

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Auto Supplier Astemo Provides Case Study Of Challenges Facing Industry

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Hitachi Astemo this week demonstrated the challenges facing major suppliers as the auto industry juggles with shifts to electric vehicles while continuing to maintain conventional internal combustion cars and trucks.

The company is developing products for both conventional gasoline-powered vehicles as well as electric vehicles. Hitachi Astemo is a tier one supplier, meaning it’s one of the big companies who deal directly with automakers. The company is 40% owned by Hitachi, 40% owned by Honda Motor Co., and 20% by private equity in Japan.

“Most people agree…we’re moving toward an EV future,” John Nunneley, senior vice president, design engineering at Hitatchi Engineering Americas Inc., said at a Wednesday briefing in Farmington Hills, Michigan. “Whatever the future is, we’ll be fine” as long vehicle production remains steady.

“It’s expensive to build plants” to supply EVs, he said “You hope the (EV) capacity develops.”

“The capital investments are huge” for EVs, added Rod Sharpe, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

The company supplies automotive systems under the Astemo name. Some of its products are for EVs directly. Others can be applied to both EVs and conventionally powered vehicles.

At this week’s briefing, Hitachi Astemo demonstrated various auto tech. They included a 360-degree vision camera system to support autonomous driving functions. The system processes data from as many as 10 cameras to provide a three-dimensional view of the area surrounding a vehicle.

Hitachi Astemo said that camera placement can vary according to a vehicle’s design.

Also demonstrated at this week’s event:

—The company’s G5 semi-active suspension, which adjusts a vehicle’s ride for maximum stability. The system can control roll and pitch by independently controlling damping force to induce or resist pitch motion in turns.

—A steer-by-wire system, which replaces a steering wheel with a hand-held device in a front-seat armrest. According to the company, the device “makes turns with a natural turn of the wrist.”

“Steer-by-wire technology allows us to literally reinvent the steering function by eliminating the steering wheel altogether,” Harsha Badarinarayan, vice president of advanced engineering for Hitachi Astemo Americas, said in a statement.

The supplier also is using auto racing to extend its relationships with automakers.

Hitatchi Astemo has been involved with the Team Penske team in the IndyCar open-wheel series for more than a decade.

The company originally supplied fuel injectors and fuel pumps originally made for production vehicles for Penske race cars.

Team Penske is involved with General Motors Co., a big Hitatchi Astemo customer.

“I’m really involved with GM” in racing, said Sharpe, the senior vice president of sales and marketing for Hitachi Astemo. GM executives such as Mark Reuss, the automaker’s president, are a regular presence at races.

“Personally, that helps me,” Sharpe said. The executive serves as Hitachi Astemo’s global account manager for GM.

Roger Penske, the owner of Team Penske, also owns the IndyCar series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Penske won his 20th Indianapolis 500 as a team owner last month.

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