STUTTGART - Robert Bosch's dominance of Europe's engine management business will decline as competitors speed the pace of change in a traditionally conservative market. But industry watchers say Bosch will probably continue to lead the global engine control business.
Forecasters DRI/McGraw-Hill estimate that Bosch supplied 50 percent of western European engine management systems in 1998, but that its share will fall to 40 percent by 2005.
A key reason for Bosch's expected decline is the growth of GDI (gasoline direct injection) systems, where new competitors are jumping in.
Bosch has a 35 percent share of the gasoline engine management system market in Europe and 15 percent worldwide, according to the company. But there is new competitive pressure as more efficient engines are introduced to meet tougher emissions standards. By 2007, Bosch estimates that every second gasoline engine produced in Europe will be fitted with a direct injection system.
Bosch late to market
Last year, Siemens beat Bosch to market with the first European GDI engine management unit, launched on a Renault engine. Bosch fitted its first direct injection gasoline engine management unit, the Motronic MED7, on the Volkswagen Lupo in late 1999.
Delphi, Denso and Visteon are also chasing business in the GDI sector.
Bosch also faces a growing challenge in diesel injection systems.
The company is the world's largest maker of diesel systems with 5.4 million units produced in 1998. Another 1.2 million units were produced under Bosch licenses.
Kevin Mann of CSM Europe, an automotive research specialist in the UK, said Bosch currently has over 80 percent of the diesel engine management system market in Europe.
But the company has faced capacity shortages as output of diesel-powered cars has grown. Meanwhile, direct injection units accounted for 85 percent of the diesel engine market in 1999.
'Bosch will remain the dominant player in diesel,' said Mann. But he said that Siemens will take share from Bosch in the next few years as it exploits opportunities presented by direct injection diesels.
In 1999, Siemens showed a piezo-hydraulic injection system, offering more precise control of the amount of fuel injected into an engine.
Siemens' second generation common rail systems, using piezo-hydraulic injectors, will be ready by late 2000 or early 2001. Bosch will not have its piezo-actuator ready for mass production until 2002.
Siemens says common rail systems are emerging as the dominant technology in diesel direct injection. It estimates that by 2003 or 2004 it will supply 30 percent of the common rail diesel injection systems fitted to new cars built in Europe.
But Bosch continues to see medium-term opportunities for other systems. The engine control unit for the super-economical 'three-liter' Lupo TDI uses Bosch's Unit Injection System. Bosch said that the UIS has the highest pressure potential of all injection systems. It is currently developing the next generation of UIS, which it said is much more compact than existing models and is therefore more suitable for four-cylinder engines.
Delphi and Denso enter
Delphi's acquisition of Lucas Diesel Systems last November will also intensify competition in diesel engine management. The business complements Delphi's existing gasoline engine management capabilities.
The acquisition added sales of about $1 billion to Delphi's European operations, mostly with non-GM customers. 'There is no real reason why Delphi should not be able to leverage at least 30 percent of the diesel market in the next seven years,' said CSM's Mann.
He also pointed to gains for Denso, the Japanese-based company that will be supplying a new Isuzu engine plant in Poland.
Mann said the current rapid pace of change is likely to continue for the next few years. In the future, he said engine management suppliers will have to deal with the complexities of drivetrain management as well as new tasks such as cylinder de-activation, interactive cruise control, and engine stop-go and idling.
Mann said: 'Overlay the tightening rules on evaporative emissions and the path to cam-less engines, and engine management companies have their work cut out for them for many years yet.'