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Turbo Makers' Fortunes Rise With Diesel Popularity

Time:2018-03-12 11:12Turbochargers information Click:

Turbo rise wit Fortunes Makers

Costly fuel has been a boon to the world's turbocharger industry. Turbo suppliers are preparing for sharply higher demand as automakers produce more turbodiesel engines. Europe, with its high fuel prices, affluent consumers and love of diesel engines, is the strongest market for turbochargers. The greatest growth is expected to come in the sub-B segment - which includes cars such as the Volkswagen Lupo - and the supermini segment, which includes vehicles such as the Fiat Punto.

Sales of diesel cars in Europe will increase from 3.6 million units in 1998 to 4.4 million by 2002, predicts J.D. Power-LMC. Diesels already account for half of new-vehicle sales in Austria, Spain and Belgium. Sales to the commercial vehicle market also are expected to rise. Worldwide, sales are expected to rise to 12 million turbochargers, from 7.6 million in 1998.

Four turbo suppliers are positioned to take the financial rewards: Honeywell Turbocharging Systems' Garrett brand, Borg-Warner Automotive Inc.'s Turbo Systems division, Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

Garrett is the largest, accounting for half of world turbocharger sales. Trailing Garrett is Borg-Warner, with 25 percent of the world's turbocharger market. Garrett predicts its turbocharger sales will top $1.4 billion this year, up from $950 million in 1998. Diesel turbos in Europe will account for the bulk of Garrett's sales, says Alexandre Ismail, the company's director of marketing development. 'Diesel penetration in Europe is one of the key drivers in turbo sales,' Ismail said. 'But in our forecasts, gasoline is going to catch up very fast.'

About 4 percent of the world's vehicles have turbocharged gasoline engines. Ismail predicts that figure will grow as automakers reduce engine sizes.

Turbochargers harness exhaust gases to spin a turbine, which then forces air into the intake manifold. With the turbocharger's assistance, the engine 'breathes' better, boosting power. Turbos first became popular in cars in the early 1980s, when automakers sought to lend excitement to the drably efficient engines developed during the oil crises. Both General Motors and Ford Motor Co. offered turbochargers in the 1980s, but Chrysler Corp. sold the most in the United States. In 1989, nearly every small and mid-sized vehicle built by Chrysler - even the minivan - was available with a turbocharger.

But fuel prices in the United States dropped, and advancing technology allowed automakers to extract more power from engines without turbochargers. Turbochargers were replaced by conventionally aspirated engines with higher displacements. Sales of turbocharged vehicles sank from 3 percent of the United States car market in 1989 to 0.4 percent by 1994. But Ismail believes turbochargers might be popular in the light-truck segment, where automakers are struggling to meet federal fuel economy standards.

The turbo's first era mainly was associated with gasoline engines and high performance, but its second will be synonymous with diesel fuel and efficiency. Diesel engines are about 30 percent more efficient than gasoline engines. Because they use waste heat, turbochargers improve engine efficiency without giving up fuel economy.

The turbocharger's benefits are highly prized in Europe, where automakers are under pressure to improve fuel economy. However, turbochargers are not cheap. For a 150-horsepower engine, a basic turbocharger might cost $200 to $300. Technological features such as variable geometry might double that price. And if the unit features electric boost assist - in which an electric motor spins the turbo at low engine revolutions per minute to eliminate turbo lag - the cost might triple.

While suppliers are working to reduce costs, tougher emissions rules could pose a challenge. European and U.S. regulators are tightening limits on particulates and oxides of nitrogen. Ron Ruzic, Borg-Warner's manager of turbocharger systems, admits the industry does not have the technology to meet European rules that take effect in 2006. Still, he is optimistic. 'I think the technology will come along. There's too much benefit to the diesel not to make it work.'

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