Global demand for automotive electronics that rely on semiconductors will grow by 61 percent to reach sales of $13.3 billion (euro 12.5 billion) by 2002, according to Denis Griot, vice president and general manager of body electronics and occupant safety at Motorola's Transportation Systems Group.
The European industry leads the world in automotive electronic applications. The average European car contains semiconductors worth about $200, compared with about $170 per car in North America.
European cars tend to feature more convenience systems such as electric seat controls and remote keyless entry systems than US makers. Semiconductors are the main electronic processors -or 'hearts' - of such systems.
The automobile is the consumer product with the highest number of semiconductors in any market, more than the personal computer market. Motorola says the use of semiconductors will increase as new models become more intelligent to meet drivers' demands for smarter, safer vehicles. Motorola is the car industry's No. 1 supplier of silicon.
Modern cars typically contain about 200 semiconductors, but luxury models such as the Volvo S80, BMW 740 and Mercedes-Benz S-class have about 450 semiconductors on board.
Motorola expects future motor-driven applications in cars to become more reliable through the introduction of mechatronic modules, which will replace hydraulics with 'truly electromechanical' systems.
Griot said mechatronic modules offer much greater functionality and flexibility. Steering systems will be one of the first areas to shift to the new technology, with brake-by-wire expected to be widely available by 2005, and drive-by-wire by 2010.
Griot said that growing experience with the reliability of electromechanical systems will drive the change.
'Ferrari is currently using an electronic hydraulic power steering (EHPS) system,' he said. 'It is possible to set the system in 'failsafe' mode, which is impossible with a strictly mechanical system.' Lower costs will also drive the growth of mechatronic modules.
The flexibility of the mechatronic module means that volumes will be high. Production starts this year and is expected to reach 10 million units a year by 2001. Savings of around 30 percent in total system costs are offered, and there are additional assembly and cost savings, according to Motorola. The new modules also allow for easier upgrade of features within a car, and reduce the amount of wiring required.
Griot said carmakers are becoming increasingly aggressive about the integration levels delivered by electronic components, and are pushing Tier 1 suppliers to come up with innovative solutions.
Motorola's automotive electronics sales reached $1.5 billion worldwide last year, according to Griot. The company commands 19 percent of the automotive semiconductor market.