MUNICH, Germany With a Basic Function Controller for low-cost cars, automotive Supplier Continental AG intents to serve emerging markets. The device reflects in many ways the shifting distribution of power in the global automotive market: It has been developed in Continental's Shanghai laboratories; the first customer is Chinese car OEM Geely.
When it comes to automotive production, market watchers agree that China is about to get ahead of Europe and even the USA. Continental is no exception to the rule; the company expects the BRIC countries to expand their share of the global car production from currently 14 percent to 20 percent in the next five years.
Accordingly, European tier ones such as Continental shift not only production but also design activities to emerging markets, and the products developed there are designed according to the needs of these countries and their automotive OEMs which in many cases differ significantly from their European and North American counterparts.
A good example of this trend is the Basic Function Controller (BFC) for automotive body functions Continental now is presenting. In comparison to European or North American BFCs, the functionality is reduced to a level comparable to a European middle-class car 15 years ago. However, it is not simply a remake of a 15-year old European design. Thus, relays which 15 years ago in Europe were a widespread component are replaced by electronics controls. For cost reasons however, the module supports only features contained in at least 80 percent of the car configurations, a Continental spokesperson said. Similarly, any features that are used seldom have been removed from the hardware in order to keep the price low. If a car OEM desires to implement them, he will have to add separate hardware functions.
In contrast, the software is structured in a modular way in order to enable OEMs to add functions at a later point in time. Both measures, the slimmed-down hardware as well as the modularity in the software, help to keep the price down while maintaining the flexibility required to adapted the device to customers' needs, Continental said.
Typical functions implemented in a BFC are the control devices for power windows control, light, windscreen wipers, direction indicator, or access control. According to Continental, the unit will be used in Geely's volume production as early as end of the current year.
Continental is not the only automotive electronics supplier presently betting on Asian markets. Recently, competitor Bosch group announced to expand in India and China with billion-dollar investments.