General Motors Corp. awards seven contracts recently to veteran and newcomer suppliers attending its TechWorld conference — a 3-day forum where suppliers pitch innovations and upgrades to proven safety and powertrain technologies.

When GM hosted its first TechWorld eight years ago, it was common for executives to spend three to five years evaluating and finalizing a new supplier contract. Today, that process is down to less than a year, managers here say.

“We are making more decisions on the fly,” says Bo Andersson, GM vice president-global purchasing and supply chain.

During TechWorld, each supplier is assigned a separate room at GM's Warren Technical Center, where representatives showcase applications and systems to teams of GM vehicle line executives, purchasing managers and engineers. Up to 2,000 GM staffers came, and many voted on whether to contract with them on vehicle programs as soon as 2010.

Some suppliers were present for their ability to help GM commonize components for current production vehicles. For example, Andersson notes GM has 329 variations of sun visors from multiple suppliers.

GM is attempting to whittle that to 24 by 2011, in part through a contract with China's Shanghai Daimay Automotive Interior Co., a small supplier with about $100 million in annual revenue.

SDA already provides GM with 5 million visors, or 15%-20% of GM's total annual supply. But within the next two years, GM expects to get 35%-40% of its visors from SDA, which is standardizing them to fit across several vehicle lines.

“We said, ‘This is an opportunity we want to take globally,” Andersson says of the deal with SDA. Fabric for the SDA visors comes from the U.S.

Continental Automotive Systems, Denso Corp., Draxlmaier Group, Grammer Industries and Robert Bosch GmbH also participated in this year's TechWorld.

On the show floor, Peter Kosak, GM executive director-global purchasing and GM North America advance purchasing, presents Bosch with a contract award for a brake corner module.

Bosch will supply the twin-piston, cast-iron caliper and rotor for a future vehicle from GM's new Midsize Crossover Architecture, formerly known as Lambda, which underpins the '07 Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia.

Bosch will produce the module in Clarksville, TN. Thanks to significant automation, labor is only 3%-4% of the production cost of the module, making it cost effective to build in the U.S. in comparison with low-wage countries.

Another contract goes to Continental, which will co-develop the next-generation crash avoidance system with GM, based on Continental's Active Passive Integration Approach, which links existing active safety devices such as electronic stability control with passive safety systems such as seatbelts and airbags.

Radar and other sensors are used to detect an obstacle in the vehicle's path, and that information triggers a host of responses. The accelerator pedal pushes up against the driver's foot, and pressure in the brake system is boosted in anticipation of hard braking.

If the system detects that a collision is unavoidable, it can engage the brakes and apply maximum stopping pressure. A camera embedded in the side mirror can detect approaching vehicles 492 ft. (150 m) away.

Murat Aksel, GM executive director-Global Advance Purchasing, says the auto maker will use part of the safety system on 50,000-100,000 vehicles in 2010, most likely for the Cadillac brand.

Also making the pitch to GM was Grammer Industries, which has designed a booster seat that collapses into either a captain's chair or bench seat.

The integrated booster chairs are designed to give added height to children or other passengers who are between 42 and 57 ins. (106-144 cm) tall. Those occupants do not sit high enough for seatbelt shoulder straps to effectively restrain them, but they are too big for conventional child safety seats.

A Grammer representative says the booster seat will be available as an option in two domestic vehicles in 2008, but the company has not yet signed with GM.

GM has awarded 89 contracts from the 10 TechWorlds it has hosted. The auto maker manages the event twice a year in North America and yearly in Europe and plans to host one in South Korea in April.