DETROIT - Robert Bosch GmbH plans to unveil an antilock brake system that could approach the industry's target price of $100 per set.
The company plans to roll out the system - called ABS 8 - in 2001. The system is 23 percent lighter than Bosch's current 5.3 ABS and occupies 30 percent less space.
The new product is aimed at price-sensitive small and mid-sized cars.
'Our customers want us to get down to $100, and we think we can get there,' said Eric Devore, a senior engineer in Bosch's brake systems division.
'If you want to get safety in the car,' he said, 'it has to be affordable.'
ABS sales in the USA have been flat in recent years, due partly to questions over their effectiveness. Flat sales and cost-conscious consumers have combined to put heavy pricing pressure on suppliers such as Bosch, LucasVarity and ITT Automotive.
ABS prices have dropped below $150 per set as brake makers fight to maintain market share.
As well as cutting prices, suppliers are trying to improve their brakes' performance. Experts theorize that some motorists do not apply enough pressure to the brakes to activate the ABS during a panic stop.
One possible solution is the brake booster. Among others, LucasVarity has developed such a device.
Now Bosch has developed its own mechanical booster that reduces stopping distances by 5-20 percent.
Peugeot will introduce the Bosch system in 1999, and Volkswagen also has expressed interest.
Bosch did not disclose the system's cost, but the mechanical booster can be added easily to the master cylinder and does not require a major redesign.
'We are not ripping off the customer,' said Sigmar Micke, Bosch vice president of component design. 'We are trying . . . to make this affordable for everybody.'