STUTTGART - Hella-Behr-Fahrzeugsysteme GmbH wants to strengthen its position as global market leader in front-end modules.
The company, a year-old joint venture between lighting specialist Hella KG Hueck & Co. and cooling specialist Behr GmbH & Co., has developed a new, fully-integrated front-end module. Audi is interested in the project, and Hella-Behr has installed a prototype module in an A6.
'We have seen a lot of interest,' said Michael Zeyen, chief executive of the Lippstadt, Germany-based company. The system has been presented to a number of carmakers besides Audi, but Zeyen would not say who the first customer would be.
Apart from cost and space savings, the new development is significant because it integrates the cooling system into the front-end structure for the first time. This will enable cars to meet tough crash legislation requirements in the future.
Safety improvements have also been made by fitting the Xenon headlamp system into one box, which can be removed completely for ease of repair. Bulbs can be renewed by pressing a quick-release button.
A cornering light has been integrated into the headlamp box design. This illuminates the direction in which the steering wheel is being turned as the car maneuvers around a corner. The headlamp box also includes indicator lights.
Hella-Behr-Fahrzeugsysteme already produces front-end vehicle modules for Skoda in Meerane in Saxony. A second factory for module assembly is under construction at Mnichovo Hradiste in the Czech Republic. Front-end production for the new Skoda Felicia will start at the end of this year.
Not all cars are equipped to use front-end modules.
'A car's platform structure must have an open front layout,' said Zeyen. 'Almost all European cars are constructed like this, but most American and Japanese cars still have a closed front structure.'
To increase business with American carmakers, Hella-Behr-Fahrzeugsysteme recently opened an engineering and development center in Detroit. 'Ford will be our first customer,' said Zeyen, but he would not say which model.
Behr employs 11,000 people and has group revenue of DM3 billion (euro 1.52 billion). Hella has 18,000 employees and sales of DM3.6 billion.