A host of '02 models will feature some truly innovative technologies from automotive suppliers. A few examples: ZF's 6-speed automatic transmission in the BMW 7-series, Delphi's Quadrasteer system on the GMC Sierra pickup (see WAW — Sept. '01, p.71), Visteon's first factory-installed DVD rear entertainment system on GM's new midsize SUVs and Delphi's MagneRide suspension control system on the Cadillac Seville STS.

Satellite Radio Tunes In

The two players in satellite radio are preparing to roll out their services in the coming months.

XM Satellite Radio launches commercial service in Dallas, TX, and San Diego, CA, in September — about a month prior to the technology's debut on affiliate General Motors Corp.'s '02 Cadillac Seville/DeVille. GM is promising a rapid introduction across its model lineup with 20-some undisclosed '03 model vehicles offering the subscription-based radio service.

XM expects to break even around 2004 with 4 million subscribers paying $10 a month. XM and Sirius Satellite Radio plan to offer up to 100 channels of digital audio entertainment coast-to-coast.

Porsche AG customers in North America will have a choice between XM and Sirius service as an option beginning in '03. In the second quarter of '02, BMW of North America will offer Sirius satellite radio on the 3-series, 5-series and X5.

Oil Pan with a Hole?

GM's all-new 4.2L I-6 engine created some packaging challenges below the engine compartment of its new 2002 midsize sport/utility vehicles.

The best solution: run the axle straight through the oil pan. With a little engineering wizardry, that's exactly what American Axle & Mfg. did with its first-ever Integrated Oil Pan (IOP) for Chevy TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada.

Torque from the driveline is transmitted to the IOP front axle, halfshafts and, ultimately, the front wheels when the vehicle is in 4WD mode. In 2WD, the electronic disconnect uncouples the front axle from the driveline to allow for reduced rolling friction, AAM says. The end result is reduced parasitic losses traditionally associated with 4WD systems.

Safety In the Bag

The race is on to install rollover air bag curtains in U.S. vehicles, and it appears Autoliv Inc. and TRW Automotive Inc. are crossing the finish line together as the new model year arrives.

TRW declines to identify its customers, but Autoliv says it will supply curtains for Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. Also receiving the feature are Jeep Liberty and Jaguar X-Type.

Frontal air bags deploy and deflate in milliseconds. The challenge with a curtain is that it must stay inflated during the rollover event. TRW's answer is its new cold-gas inflator, which can keep the bag inflated for several seconds.

By 2004, Autoliv estimates that 70% of new U.S. vehicles will be equipped with inflatable curtains as optional equipment.