More MBS Coverage TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Gerald “Jerry” Bricker has first-hand experience with components his company supplies to Ford Motor Co. He recently purchased an Escape Hybrid SUV.

"It's really for my wife," says Bricker, who drives a company car in his position as vice president and general sales manager of Omron Automotive Electronics Inc. the U.S.-based subsidiary of Omron Corp., headquartered in Japan.

Omron supplies the high-voltage relay for the Escape Hybrid's battery, as well as its electric power steering control module, seat switch and optional 110-volt receptacle for converting from DC to AC power. By some estimates, that package comes to about $100 per vehicle for a 20,000-unit-per-year production run.

A savvy businessman, Bricker says he purchased the SUV "for good economic reasons," starting with $5,000 in incentives plus a $2,000 federal tax credit covering hybrids, which shrinks to $500 next year.

He also was attracted by the Escape Hybrid's fuel economy: a combined 31 mpg (7.6L/100km) on the sticker (he says his wife gets about 35 mpg [6.7L/100km]) compared with 18 mpg [13L/100km] for the Escape's non-hybrid twin, the Mazda Tribute.

Bricker also makes these points:

  • Omron's worldwide sales continue to grow, rising 12% in 2004. He expects revenues to reach $700 million in 2005, with North America accounting for $240 million.

  • Omron will open its first automotive electronics plant in China in Guangzhou, south of Shanghai, next January to produce electric window units and keyless entry systems.

  • Omron's laser/radar control sensors, introduced in the U.S. on Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s Infiniti Q45 in 2004, is being expanded to other models.

Bricker claims Omron's sensor costs 33% to 50% less than conventional laser/radar braking systems. The sensor, when applied to adaptive cruise control, automatically maintains a safe driving distance between vehicles.