It's got a new business-unit name. And it's got a president determined to drag perceptions of it kicking and screaming into the new century.

The company is Toledo, Ohio's, Dana Corp. and the always-driving president of its Automotive Systems Group, Bill Carroll, says last month's formation of the new Traction Technologies Group isn't Wall Street-stroking lip service from a company with a tradition in the auto and trucking industries' rather unglamorous underside. Mr. Carroll says Dana is entering a “new era of customer focus and support.”

Forming the new Traction Technologies Group, Mr. Carroll tells WAW, is critical to changing the perception of Dana as a supplier specializing in mature chassis and driveline components that, these days, typically are viewed as low-value items.

“We're not a truck company. We're not low-tech. We're global. We've got technology,” asserts Mr. Carroll, who adds, “We've not been very good over the years at tooting our own horn.”

Dana's new Traction Technologies Group is an “evolution” of the now-defunct Automotive Axle Products Group, says Dana. Three U.S. operational segments encompass customer satisfaction, transformation and global strategies. The Group consists of around 25 manufacturing, assembly and research and development facilities.

Dana also is a partner in the recently formed Drive-Tek driveline development joint venture with GKN Automotive and also is partnered with transmission-maker Getrag.

Apart from developments with joint ventures, Dana is promoting its higher-tech direction with newly developed technologies like its Hyrda-Lok differential — used by DaimlerChrysler AG for the Jeep Grand Cherokee — and the unique Dual Advantage differential that completely uncouples from the differential gears the front axles of a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, reducing frictional losses found in typical “single-disconnect” front diffs.

Jun Yoshioka, Dana chief engineer - advanced engineering, says the new design improves NVH and also enhances fuel economy to the tune of around one-twentieth of an mpg — although Dana's still quantifying the actual fuel economy implications.

No customer yet for Dual Advantage, but Mr. Carroll believes some automaker will step to the plate for the '03 or '04 model year.