Denso will target French automakers in its bid to become one of Europe's top-five suppliers by 2010.
"First we built up our business with the Japanese carmakers in Europe," Denso President Koichi Fukaya told Automotive News Europe. "Now we must approach the French groups."
Fukaya sees Denso's relationship with Nissan as a handy way of building ties with Renault. Denso already supplies its common-rail diesel system to the Europe-built Nissan Primera, Almera, Almera Tino, Pathfinder and Navara. Renault owns 44.4 percent of Nissan.
Denso already has used its ties to Mazda to win business with Ford.
Ford, which owns 33.4 percent of Mazda, will equip its Transit family of light commercial vehicles with Denso's common-rail system.
Masahiko Miyaki, managing officer for Denso's fuel injection product division, hinted that the Transit will not be the only model with a Denso diesel.
"We expect big growth in business with Ford," Miyaki said.
He said the Ford business results from the success of the Denso-equipped Mazda6 common-rail diesel. Mazda becoming the lead partner in many of the Ford group's upcoming passenger-car programs provides "a good way into Ford," Denso President Fukaya said.
Denso is the world's fourth-biggest supplier of common-rail systems after Robert Bosch, Delphi and Siemens VDO Automotive. In its 2004-2005 fiscal year that ended March 31 Denso supplied 1.05 million systems to cars and trucks. It expects to boost this to 2.1 million in its 2006-2007 fiscal year.
The company has identified diesel systems -- along with air conditioning and navigation products -- as a top growth area in Europe.
Many of those diesel systems are made at Denso's plant in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, about 65km southwest of Budapest. The plant produced 260,000 common-rail systems in 2004-2005.
Currently, Denso supplies common-rail systems to eight Toyota diesel models in Europe, with the Avensis getting the advanced 1800-bar system with piezo injectors. Denso also provides common-rail systems to Isuzu for its 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engines that are supplied to Renault for the Espace large minivan and Vel Satis large-segment car.
Denso is determined to overtake its competitors and enter the European top five. But, Fukaya said, this will not be achieved by taking over other companies.
"We want to grow by ourselves," he said.
Denso ranks No. 20 on the Auto-motive News Europe list of the top 30 suppliers to Europe with original-equipment automotive parts sales of $2.59 billion (E2.14 billion).
Fukaya sees major growth opportunities in air conditioning. European fitment rates have passed the 50 percent mark but are still well short of Japan and North America markets, where more than 95 percent of the cars have air conditioning.
Denso is world leader in air conditioning and supplies the VW Passat and Golf in Europe.
"I expect Europe to reach 85 percent air conditioning fitment by the end of 2010," Fukaya said.