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Management Q&A

Continental Teves’ Jeff Klei predicts the growth of electronic safety systems.

Continental Teves’ Jeff Klei
Electronic stability control (ESC) programs seem to have become the lifesaver of the auto industry during the past five years. When the Mercedes A-Class flipped during testing, the company made electronic stability standard as a way to reassure people the vehicle was safe.

Since then ESC has been added to vehicles in virtually every segment. From tiny compacts to large sedans to even larger SUVs, ESC is being marketed as a safety tool on par with ABS or airbags. (SUV’s remain the largest market for ESC).

While several companies continue to work on their systems, Continental Teves has moved into the forefront as one of the largest ESC suppliers. The company is constantly working on new aspects of the program and says ESP — its name for ESC — will continue to improve in the near future.

Jeff Klei, Continental vice president sales and marketing, recently sat down with Automotive Industries to discuss some of the benefits and strategies of ESP.

Q. Are ESP sales increasing in the U.S. and what kind of growth do you predict for the future?

A. ESP sales continue to grow in North America as well as the number of applications for ESP. Every one of our customers is aggressively pursuing increased application and installation rates of ESP and this has been going on now for a number of years. What we see is an increasing rate of these installations due to the heightened awareness of the benefits of ESP.

Obviously NHTSA — with their rollover testing and their positive comments on ESP — has impacted the drive to install it on more vehicles. It’s primarily in the SUV segment that we’ve seen significant growth although passenger cars are growing as well. SUV’s are clearly growing the fastest.

Q. What kind of education and marketing are we seeing for ESP in the industry?

A. You’ve got to look at the difference between the regions. In Europe, ESP is very widely know and recognized by the consumer. And it’s almost mandatory to sell vehicles in certain segments. ABS in Germany is standard equipment on every vehicle while here it’s on 60 percent of the vehicles.

Q. Do you see NHTSA mandating stability control into vehicles?

A. I don’t think we’ll ever see NHTSA regulating stability systems or ESP. I think what you’ll find is that the auto manufacturers will see the benefit. Because of more visibility to the statistics as well as exposure to driving vehicles with the system, customers will begin to demand it. At some point — because of the demand — it will make sense to make it a standard feature. I feel it will be a more natural progression than a governmental mandate.

Q. What other systems can you link ESP to?

A. The next feature we have will really help in the rollover situation. This is what we call Roll Stability Control (RSC). This is a system we developed with Ford. It is now available on the Volvo XC90, which is the first vehicle in the world featuring this technology. We have a yaw sensor which determines where the vehicle is on the horizontal plane. We then added a roll sensor to see if the vehicle is trending towards a rollover condition. And it uses the same technology as ESP by applying engine and brake control to the vehicle.

Q: Where else will we see this?

A: It was available first on the Volvo XC90. All I can say is we are working aggressively with Ford to bring it to other Ford family vehicles around the world. I would say that all our customers are interested in like technology.

Q: What’s the main difference between ESP and ESP II?

A: The next generation of ESP will take steering as an input to ESP. Today we apply brakes and engine to bring the vehicle back under control. Imagine if you could — with electric steering — bring the vehicle under control without the driver input. That is a technology we’ve got on the road today in developmental vehicles. We’re working with customers to see what the proper platform is to introduce that technology.

Q: To make education easier what is being done about a more general term for these stability control systems?

A: ESC is the generic technology. ESP is our product. This is big factor we have to deal with in this industry. If you look at ABS everybody’s system was called ABS and it’s a widely known term. For electronic stability control systems there are already (in North America) over 20 different names that the consumer would identify with this technology. So we’re also working with SAE to try and communize, within the industry, this technology to one name to make it simpler for customers. It’s a big issue.

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