The Motley Fool's Rich Smith recently spoke with Timothy Manganello, CEO of BorgWarner
Rich Smith: Tim, let's start with the question that's on all our readers' minds: Is BorgWarner a threat to humanity, or do you come in peace?
Timothy Manganello: We come in peace, armed with leading powertrain technology that brings to all of humanity the benefits of improved fuel economy, reduced emissions, and enhanced vehicle performance and stability.
RS: I presume that, coming from a galaxy far, far away, you've got some advanced technology to offer us. What exactly is BorgWarner's stock in trade: transporter pads, warp drives, and photon torpedoes?
TM: Advanced products, yes, but a little more down-to-Earth. On the engine side, our technology is all about "breathing" -- air-management technology for efficient combustion with products for turbocharging, emissions reduction, engine timing, thermal management, and instant starting. On the drivetrain side, our focus is on the efficient transfer of power through "shift-quality" transmission products and all-wheel-drive systems.
RS: Kidding aside, far from being an alien threat, I understand that BorgWarner actually hails from Chicago, but you recently moved to a suburb of Detroit. Why?
TM: As a top-25 global automotive supplier, it makes sense for us to be based in metro Detroit, because it is one of the three key global automotive hubs -- the others being Germany and Japan. Almost all the major global OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] have technical centers in the Detroit area, as does BorgWarner, and at the very least, they visit Detroit multiple times per year.
RS: As a percentage of sales, Volkswagen is the only one of your top four customers that's been getting bigger, while Ford
TM: The move to metro Detroit was intended to put us closer to, and give us access to, the activities of the entire global auto industry, not necessarily to any individual customer. We also have regional sales offices and tech centers around the world. As an enterprise, we're very global, and many of us spend as much time in Europe and Asia as we do in North America.
TM: Our business has been growing with each of these automakers. In 2006, we expect our sales to each, as a percentage of total revenue, to be: VW/Audi (12%); Renault/Nissan (7%); Toyota (7%); Hyundai/Kia (6%); and Honda (3%). Also, our growth in China and India is accelerating. Europe, the industry's center of advanced powertrain development, continues to be our fastest growth region.
RS: What about the two saviors of the environment and our oil reserves: hybrid gas-electric engines and hydrogen fuel-cell cars? What is BorgWarner doing to capitalize on the popularity of the former, and to prepare for the hydrogen revolution that always seems to be just 10 years away?
TM: Our expertise, as it relates to engine technology, surrounds air-flow management in an internal-combustion engine. As long as the alternatives in the market are in some way powered by an internal-combustion engine, we will be well positioned to participate in the market's growth, regardless of the fuel [gasoline, ethanol, etc.] or the supplemental powertrain [such as hybrids]. BorgWarner technologies aimed at improving powertrain performance, such as reducing parasitic losses in transmissions [e.g., dual-clutch transmissions] and delivering better fuel economy and lower emissions [e.g., turbocharging, variable cam timing] are all compatible with hybrids and non-hybrids alike. With regard to fuel cells, we are working on drivetrain technology to assist in the area of fuel cells, although our experts tell us that fuel cells are about 20 years away for high-volume vehicles.
RS: For more than a decade now, BorgWarner has been growing its sales at several times the growth rate of the global automotive industry. Today, auto parts producers like Delphi and Dana are filing for bankruptcy, and GM and Ford have had their debt ratings downgraded to "junk." How is it that your business is the only one booming?
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