TOKYO – From head-up displays and fuel injectors to keyless ignition and “smart” cards, Japanese suppliers are growing production volumes.

Nippon Seiki Co., Japan's leading maker of head-up displays projected onto windshields, does not expect the market for the devices to take off until 2009, at the earliest.

John Wybrew, managing director, Nippon Seiki (Europe) B.V., predicts it will take "at least five years for the market to take off and 10 years to see real volumes."

In 2005, Nippon Seiki sold 65,000 units, more than 80% of global demand, according to Wybrew.

Toyota Motor Corp. was the first Japanese auto maker to introduce a head-up display, supplied by Denso Corp., with the 2004 launch of the Crown Majesta. Next up was the Honda Legend, Nippon Seiki's first unit.

In the U.S, Wybrew says, to date, only General Motors Corp. has introduced a head-up display, while in Europe, both BMW AG and PSA Peugeot Citroen have done so. Two examples are the BMW 5-Series and Citroen C6.

Wybrew says packaging and cost remain major obstacles to expanded market penetration. "We've got to reduce size and lower cost," he says. He estimates the display developed for the 5-Series costs about $1,195.

Cars equipped with Nippon Seiki head-up displays include the Pontiac Grand Prix, Cadillac XLR and STS, Chevrolet Corvette, Citroen C6 and Honda/Acura Legend. The Legend unit projects images onto the windshield when the car's night vision system is inactive.

Meanwhile, in the powertrain segment, Denso has developed a new common-rail fuel-delivery system that has an injection pressure of 2,000 bar (29,000 psi). The system will accommodate up to nine injection events per combustion cycle, including several post-injection events to burn off particulates.

Initially, Denso plans to introduce the new system in Europe in 2007 or 2008. The company produces common-rail systems in Thailand, Hungary and Japan.

Denso's sales target in fiscal 2005 (ending March 31) is 1.8 million common-rail systems, up from 1.1 million in fiscal 2004. Company officials attribute the nearly 65% increase to tighter emission regulations in Europe.

Denso took the lead in introducing an 1,800-bar (26,100-psi) system in 2002 on Mazda Motor Corp.’s Mazda6 and MPV. The system can perform up to five injections during each combustion stroke.

Since then, Denso has supplied the system to Toyota for the U.K.-built Avensis, Avensis Verso, Corolla and Corolla Verso, along with the Previa, RAV4, Land Cruiser, Land Cruiser Prado, Granvia and IS 220D, all produced in Japan and exported to Europe.

Denso also supplies the system to Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. for the X-Trail, Pathfinder and Navara, all exported from Japan to Europe, along with the U.K.-built Primera and Almera, and Spanish-built Almera Tino.

Other common-rail customers include Isuzu Motors Ltd., which adopted the system for the Renault-badged Versatis and Espaso; Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd., for the Mighty and County; and Adam Opel AG, for the Corsa, Meriva, Combo, Combo Tour, Astra, Vectra and Signum, all of which are powered by Isuzu diesel engines.

In Japan, the Denso system is featured on the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Hilux Surf, Dyna and Hiace; Hino Motors Ltd.'s Dutro, Ranger, Super Dolphin and Profia trucks; Isuzu's Elf, Forward and Giga; Nissan’s diesel Condour; Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s Fuso Fighter; and Mazda's Bongo.

In the U.S., Denso supplies the system to Isuzu for the Elf and to Hino for the Ranger.

In the electrical sector, Tokai Rika Co. Ltd., a switch supplier, expects pushbutton ignitions to become standard on most Toyota cars by 2015.

Tokai, which is owned 27% by Toyota, says penetration will vary by model. For example, the penetration rate for pushbutton starters on the current-generation Vitz is more than 30%.

Toyota models employing push-start systems include the Prius, Crown Royal, Crown Majesta, Mark X, Kluger Hybrid, Estima, Vitz, Ractis, Belta and Camry.

The new Lexus GS 450h hybrid luxury sedan, scheduled to hit showrooms this spring, features a pushbutton ignition and keyless entry.

At present, Toyota, Nissan, Renault SA, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are the main auto makers that employ the system.

Tokai also ranks as Japan's second largest supplier of “smart” keys and fourth largest supplier of keyless-entry systems.

Based on a 2005 study by IRC Inc., a Nagoya-based automotive research company, Tokai supplied an estimated 450,000 smart keys in fiscal 2004, coming in a distant second to Alpha Corp., which supplied nearly 700,000 units to Nissan.

Combined, the two companies had an estimated 85% share of the Japanese market, which

approached 1.4 million units for the full year.

Tokai sold nearly 650,000 keyless-entry systems and ranked fourth in sales behind Denso, Omron Corp. and Calsonic Kansei Corp. Denso, Japan's leading supplier, boosted its share to 30% of total sales, estimated at 7 million.

Powering Denso’s sales growth was increased demand from Toyota, which purchased an estimated 2.2 million units during the period, more than double its fiscal 2001 total, according to an earlier IRC study.

Omron, principal supplier to Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi, was a close second at just under 30%, on sales of about 2 million units.

Osamu Yamazaki, a senior official in Omron's sales and marketing division, predicts in 2010 about 90% of keyless-entry systems sold in Japan will switch to passive (touch-free) systems.

At present, Omron supplies parts of the passive-entry system available on Chevy Corvette and Cadillac XLR, STS and DTS models. "It is just beginning to show up, but sales will expand," Yamazaki says.

Omron's automotive component business has grown to about $750 million. Management expects sales to double to $1.5 billion by 2010.

In addition to keyless-entry systems, main products for Omron include power window and seat switches, control units for electronic power steering and “lidar” sensors. Lidar is a laser-based device employed in pre-crash warning systems.

Omron currently supplies lidar sensors to Nissan for the pre-crash system installed in the luxury Fuga and its Infiniti derivatives, the M35 and M45.

To date, no other auto maker has adopted the device, at least the latest version; earlier units found use in Toyota and Honda cars.

Jerry Bricker, general sales manager of Omron’s Detroit-based subsidiary, expects this to change because of the new sensor's expanded functionality.

With a single lidar sensor, Nissan can cover three functions: adaptive cruise control, low-speed following or “tracking” and pre-crash sensing.

In the case of Toyota's Harrier, Celsior (LS 430) and Crown Majesta, all of which employ millimeter-wave radar for pre-crash sensing, the auto maker needs an additional device for the cars' adaptive cruise control and low-speed tracking systems.

Regardless of whether the three functions are batched together, Bricker expects demand for adaptive cruise control to grow steadily.

By 2010, he predicts penetration in the U.S. market will reach 5%, more than double current levels, while the share in Japan could go as high as 15% (of some 3.3 million cars) in the non-mini segment.

In the U.S. market, Bricker says six cars were equipped with adaptive cruise control in 2001. "By 2007, there will be 14 or 15, and the number is growing. So far most are in the luxury segment," he says.

Elsewhere, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. says it will begin selling a lane-recognition camera to an unnamed auto maker in 2007 and millimeter-wave radar in 2008.