Chairman and CEO Stephen R. Hardis says that by 2000 Eaton is targeting $10 billion in sales, $8 earnings per share, a $150 stock price and an average 10%"sustainable increase" in annual earnings. Eaton's profits currently are growing at a 6% pace, double its historical 3% rate, he says.

The 10% will come from a three-pronged effort that includes new product development, global expansion and acquisitions, he says, with 6% from leveraging existing products, 2% from new products, and l % each from expanding in global markets and from acquisitions.

Alexander M. (Sandy) Cutler, president and chief operating officer, says Eaton's research and development activities traditionally have added 10% in "truly new" products each year. In 1996, however, that will reach 34%, rising to 40% at the century's turn, says Mr. Cutler.

Much of the new-product growth will come from injecting "smart" electronics into Eaton's longstanding expertise in mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems, says Mr. Cutler. As one example, he predicts Eaton can triple its content in heavy-duty trucks from $7,500 to $20,000 and in medium trucks from $2,500 to $12,000.

Adrian T. Dillon, vice president-chief financial and planning officer, says Eaton's prospects are buoyed by a combination of a steady growth in gross domestic product (GDP), averaging 2.5% annually since early 1991, and 4.2% yearly gains in industrial productivity over the same period. Mr. Dillon forecasts 190,000 heavy-duty truck sales this year, down from 245,000 in 1995, and continuing at the 190,000 level in 1997.

The emphasis on R&D and electronics is leading Eaton into a broad array of improved products and new offerings.

Stanley V. Jaskolski, vice president-technical management, says Eaton's core technical competencies are electronic intelligence, energy control, communications, electronics design, mechanical design and materials analysis.

Mr. Jaskolski says Eaton sees a bright future for automotive multiplexing -- it already supplies a multiplex door system for Chrysler Corp.'s Grand Cherokee -- and can visualize the day when remote keyless-entry-like technology will eliminate some wiring systems altogether.

One of the most interesting new products on Eaton's horizon is a lightweight valve that engineers say reduces valve weight by 55%. Chief Advanced Product Engineer Bryce A. Buuck says a proprietary manufacturing process makes hollowing out the valve much simpler and more cost effective. Valves of this type currently are used only in very expensive high-performance powerplants.

Filled with a coolant, the lightweight valves allow engines to run more efficiently because they move with less inertia force and spring loads. "It would help with variable valve timing," says Engineer Stephen E. Zirkle, who adds that "camless engines need light weight valves to become a reality." Eaton expects lightweight valves to be in limited production by 1999 and in volume production by 2001. Other new products under development include:

* An "express-up" power window system that detects obstacles and automatically halts the upward movement to avoid accidents or injuries. Although "express-up" is available on a few cars made overseas, Eaton claims its device is the first to utilize sensors embedded along the entire length of the upper window seal.

* A device that automatically folds sideview mirrors flush with the doors where mirror clearance may be a problem, such as in parking or at banking and fast-food drive-ins.

* A steering column rotary transformer that permits up to 32 switch options on the steering wheel and air bag pod compared with seven in existing systems.

* A small supercharger designed to boost performance of engines under 1L without sacrificing fuel economy, which may bow by 1998.

While Eaton underscores that it's not only a truck-component manufacturer, $2 billion is generated annually from that market. And it intends to maintain and expand on its 21% of the worldwide market with new products.

These offerings include truck antilock braking systems, traction control, brake by wire, and vehicle dynamics control through a joint agreement with Robert Bosch Corp. Eaton is adding more electronic controls to its lineup of heavy-duty transmissions and has developed an automatic gearbox that makes driving the big rigs much easier.

Eaton's efforts to simplify truck driving, which includes plans to reduce the complexity of tractor cockpits, aim to help fleets retain and recruit drivers.