Profitable Denso Continues Growth Spurt

The Japanese supplier is expanding two plants in the U.S., as well as several overseas, as it serves its No.1 customer, Toyota.

DETROIT – Denso Corp. continues to ride the coattails of its biggest customer and partial owner Toyota Motor Corp., as the supplier expands worldwide while many others are closing facilities or struggling through bankruptcy.

The Japan-based Denso is expanding production of its common-rail diesel fuel-injection system plant in Hungary, which is growing to keep pace with heavy demand for diesel vehicles throughout Europe.

Denso also has set up a branch office in Moscow to serve the growing auto industry in Russia.

In North America, it is expanding its joint-venture facility in Sterling, KY, which produces automotive fuel-pump modules, and its Maryville, TN, plant, which manufactures electronic components.

The Maryville project will be complete by year’s end, and both expansions will create about 650 new jobs by 2010, Matt Matsushita, president and CEO of Denso International America, tells journalists at this week’s North American International Auto show here.

In its home market, Denso is building two new manufacturing plants in Japan, one for ceramic components and the other for electronics.

“We’re expanding our capacity for air-conditioning production in Turkey, and we’ve added a new company in China to produce instrument clusters,” Matsushita says.

Denso has been a supplier sponsor of the Detroit auto show for the past three years, but for the first time the company has an exhibit on the show floor, in the lower-level Michigan Hall, alongside smaller companies and publications specializing in the aftermarket and motorsports.

A Denso spokeswoman says she is thrilled to share space on the floor of North America’s most important auto show.

On display at Denso’s booth is a buck of its drowsy driver monitoring system, which uses a camera to detect a driver’s closing eyelids. Also, a metallic strip on the steering wheel keeps tabs on the driver’s heart rate.

When the system detects a driver falling asleep, an audible alarm sounds, and a blast of cold air comes from below the head restraint to rouse the driver. Denso says it hopes to be in production with the system by about 2010.

More immediately, Denso supplies the all-new flagship Lexus LS 460 with an innovative back-row air-conditioning system capable of compensating for changes in temperature from one side of the car to the other.

A new matrix infrared ray sensor calculates body-temperature readings for backseat passengers and controls airflow for maximum comfort on either side of the car.

With 106,000 employees worldwide, Denso finished its 2006 fiscal year March 31, with $27.3 billion in sales and net income of $1.4 billion.

Matsushita says he expects Denso sales in 2007 to grow between 8% and 10%.

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