TRAVERSE CITY – China’s growing economy and robust vehicle sales are presenting opportunities for North American automotive suppliers looking to enter the market.

Executives from several German suppliers already doing business in China say there still is room to find a niche.

Fuel-quality problems in Asia are creating an opportunity for filter-supplier Mann+Hummel GmbH, says Charles Vaillant, vice president-advanced engineering.

Chinese auto makers, in particular, want the latest engine technology, but poor fuel quality could destroy delicate and expensive components, he says at the Car Management Briefing Seminars here.

Mann+Hummel, which manufactures intake manifolds for internal-combustion engines, also is working with the Chinese as well as other global auto makers to develop air-flow modules that would improve performance of the battery in future electric vehicles.

“In China, the government has decided to make electric taxi fleets and have electric cars for government officials,” says Vaillant, who recently returned from a China trip.

While China expects EVs to make up 7% of its 2020 fleet, the outlook in Europe and North America is closer to half that, he says. “It’s hard to make a judgment about what will happen.”

HBPO GmbH, a leading front-end module supplier in Europe and North America, only has a legal entity in Shanghai today, but after 10 years of business there it has grown almost as big as it is in Europe, where the company has nearly a dozen plants.

“In China, India and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), they are looking for a partner for safety and fuel consumption and appearance problems,” HBPO CEO and President Martin Schueler tells Ward’s.

While the Chinese auto makers first are to meet burgeoning demand in China, the second thing they want “is to export to Europe or North America,” he says. And that means they want the same technology used in other major markets.

For HBPO, “there is a huge potential in Asia and North America.”