Denso expanding U.S.-based R&D, manufacturing

  • 24-Jan-2012 08:55 EST
Denso's D Patton.JPG

Doug Patton highlighted Denso's future technology plans for North America, including creation of a new battery thermal-management lab, during a Detroit auto show press conference. (Image by Kami Buchholz)

The top executive of Denso in North American said the various product development and manufacturing activities that occur outside Japan are crucial to the success of the Japanese supplier.

"Having responsibility for engineering R&D in Japan, and now having responsibility for the North American region as well, it is clear that R&D outside of Japan has become increasingly important for Denso's survival as a global company," Hikaru "Howard" Sugi, CEO and President of Denso International America (DIAM), said during a press conference at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

As a company, Denso plans to develop innovations in the region considered a trendsetter for specific technologies.

"For example, the U.S. market is the leader for communications technology so we want to focus our communications and human-machine interface (HMI) technology development in North America," Sugi said.

Even though HMI-related activities have been ongoing for more than two years at DIAM, the group only recently was chosen to be the HMI center of development, according to Douglas Patton, Senior Vice President of Engineering for DIAM.

"Our intention is to develop a quantitative method to measure driver workload," Patton told AEI. The company is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Iowa on the project.

In addition to focusing on HMI research, Denso technical specialists in Michigan and elsewhere want to know as soon as possible about new innovations.

"You have to know what the new technologies are, so we will be opening an office in Silicon Valley to help us understand what new technologies are being developed," said Patton.

The California office initially will be staffed with four people, including engineers.

At its Southfield, MI, headquarters, Denso will add a laboratory dedicated to developing battery thermal management systems for electrified vehicles within its existing 250,000 ft2 tech center. Engineers assigned to the lab will work to develop new technology based on a three-year, $2.6 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant.

According to Patton, Denso engineers in Michigan are developing a unique, liquid-cooled solution for EV battery packs, one that does not rely on the HVAC system as is done on some current lithium-ion packs.

The stand-alone thermal management system potentially could offer a 20% reduction in the size of a production lithium-ion pack, Patton said. He believes an EV's battery cooling system "can be more efficient if it can be tailored to just managing the battery."

Regarding Denso's North American manufacturing, construction is slated to begin in October 2013 for a $57 million facility in Silao, Mexico. More than 400 workers will be involved in the production and assembly of HVAC units.

According to Sugi, "The new facility will help Denso expand its business in Mexico and meet the growing needs of North American customers who are ramping up their operations in the region."

The new plant will expand Denso's Mexico manufacturing footprint, which now includes powertrain and body components.

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