Sungate WeatherMaster: No more scraping

The spring thaw may have come, but don't forget those snowy, icy mornings when a pick axe or chisel appeared to be the most suitable tools for clearing your windshield.

PPG Industries Inc., North America's largest producer of automotive glass, has a solution: the Sungate WeatherMaster windshield. If you can allow a mere 5 minutes for your car to warm up on a frosty morning, you'll never have to scrape your windshield again. Your conventional heating/defrost system would need about 20 minutes to do the same.

The Sungate WeatherMaster has a heating element — much like a rear defroster, but without the horizontal lines every inch or so. The WeatherMaster supplies so much heat to the windshield that it requires a high-efficiency 14-volt/42-volt DC/DC converter.

The windshield was developed in anticipation of the industry's migration to a 42-volt electrical architecture. If that movement should be stalled, the converter could be supplied by Ecostar Electric Powertrain and Power Conversion Systems of Dearborn, MI.

Ecostar supplied a converter for a WeatherMaster windshield at the PPG display at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. To the touch, the windshield felt as warm as asphalt in July. The windshield also has a proprietary infrared-reflecting coating to reduce the solar heat that enters the vehicle on hot days.

Ernest Hahn, PPG's vice president of automotive glass, says DaimlerChrysler AG is interested in the WeatherMaster windshield for the 2005 Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury car.

Around the industry

  • Siemens Automotive is ready to bring instrument gauge specialist VDO into the corporate fold after U.S. regulators approve the Siemens takeover of Atecs-Mannesmann AG. The two units will be merged to form Siemens VDO Automotive AG, which will be a leading supplier of automotive electronics. To prepare for the move, Siemens Automotive was spun off Oct. 1 as an independent but wholly-owned company. Combined sales of Siemens VDO are $7 billion, with 51,400 employees worldwide. The first day of joint operation is Oct. 1.

  • Also in electronics, Continental AG moved closer to its goal of becoming a supplier of “total chassis control” by purchasing the $884 million electronics business of Temic GmbH from cash-strapped DaimlerChrysler AG. Continental agreed to purchase 60% of the supplier, based in Nuremburg, Germany, and it has an option on the remaining 40% it can exercise within three years. Continental will keep the Temic brand name, and it will stand as a subsidiary of Continental AG, with 5,800 employees.

  • Visteon Corp. plans to lay off 950 white-collar workers in the U.S. due to reduced automotive production. The cuts represent about 12% of Visteon's U.S. salaried workforce. As part of the restructuring, Visteon now will have “customer teams” located in two regions: North America/Asia and Europe/South America. Visteon also will lay off 850 workers within its foreign operations by the end of June.

Sanluis opens MI tech center

Sanluis Rassini is one of Mexico's top automotive suppliers, but it offered very little engineering expertise in the area of brake components, which has been the company's key growth market in recent years.

Last month, the company demonstrated for customers its desire to become a “full-service” supplier by dedicating its new technical center in Plymouth, MI.

The facility represents Rassini's first U.S. automotive facility. The company also is close to deciding on a location for its first U.S. manufacturing facility, likely in the Midwest. Rassini plans to produce coil springs at the plant. The company has one other coil spring plant in Piedras Negras, Mexico, which has reached full capacity.

In Plymouth, Rassini has 45 employees, including 14 brake engineers and technicians, as well as metrology, corrosion testing and materials labs and computational fluid dynamics software to study air flow over rotors. The gem of the new tech center is a $1.3 million environmental dynamometer for evaluation of brake components.

The company says it has about 8% of the North American market for rotors, hubs and drums, and that it expects to have 20% of that market within three years. Rassini will supply front and rear rotors for the Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper in ’03.

In Puebla, Mexico, Rassini is tripling its capacity to produce brake components. It is the sole supplier of rear rotors for General Motors Corp.'s fullsize truck platform. Within two months, a new plant with a domed roof will open in Puebla for machining of rotors.

For MY ’02, Rassini also is launching a rotor and hub assembly (complete with fasteners and ABS exciter ring) for the GMT560 medium-duty trucks. The job represents the first time Rassini had full engineering responsibility for a brake component contract.