VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, MI – By 2009, Visteon Corp.’s largest regional presence will be in Asia/Pacific as the supplier seeks to grow its business in low-cost countries, a top executive says.

The former Ford Motor Co. parts division sees the region as an area of growth for its products, as well as an opportunity to diversify its customer base, says John Kill, senior vice president and president-North America customer group and global advanced product development.

“By 2009, when you look at our business on an unconsolidated basis, which would include our joint ventures, 40% will be in Asia/Pacific, 26% in North America and the rest in Europe,” Kill tells Ward’s.

“So we’re going from a very North America-centric company focused on one customer, to having an extremely diverse customer base,” he says.

In 2005, Visteon established its China Technical Center in Shanghai’s CaoHeJing High Technology Park. The CTC includes an engineering and administration building and adjacent testing and development facility.

Many of the supplier’s recent innovations originated from CTC, Kill says, adding the center also allows for closer collaboration with Chinese auto makers.

Developing and producing new products in low-cost countries has allowed Visteon to keep its research and development budget in check and reduce costs, Kill says.

“But that’s not the only answer,” he says. “We do well leveraging our global resources.”

In addition to China, Visteon has manufacturing facilities, engineering centers and business offices in India, Japan, Korea and Thailand.

Kill says in order for Visteon to remain competitive as a global automotive supplier, it’s crucial that it maintains a diverse product portfolio.

“Our product lines are balanced very well,” he says. “Roughly a third is electronics, a third climate controls and a third interiors. Balance is something that is critical to us to make sure we’re not focused on one customer in one particular area.”

New technologies also are essential to Visteon’s future success.

“One of the metrics we use on a regular basis is looking at how much of (our) new business wins are associated with products and technologies that have been developed over the last 24 months, “ Kill says. “Last year, we had over $1 billion in new business, and 43% of that (was for) technologies and products that were developed recently.” Human-machine interface is a particularly important area for Visteon, Kill says.

“We’ve been staffing certain areas and increasing our capability in HMI,” he says. “It’s not an area of expertise that’s easily developed or easily found. We’re seeing a real pull (for HMI) from our OEM customers right now. They’re starting to recognize they don’t necessarily have all the expertise they need.”

One of the supplier’s advanced HMI concepts is a “haptic” touch screen, which mimics the touch and feel of conventional mechanical buttons. Haptics refers to technology that interfaces with the user via the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations and/or motions to the user.

“Part of what we’re looking at in haptics is to have an intuitive feel, so the driver really doesn’t have to look down,” Kill says. “Through his sense of feel, he can determine what function is changing or what action he’s taking without taking his eyes of the road.”

bpope@wardsauto.com