Robert Bosch Corp. has been angling for a contract like this for years. Now, it appears Europe's largest automotive supplier will have a chance to prove itself.

Within the next four years, Bosch will launch its first integrated engine management system on a high-volume gasoline engine for passenger cars in the United States, Europe and Asia/Pacific. The automaker customer is not identified, but Bosch says the engine will comply with the world's strictest emissions target: California's Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standard.

Bosch already produces engine controller units (ECUs), but a complete engine management system moves beyond supplying just the ECU -- the brains behind the engine. Bosch says it now is prepared to supply more than 20 individual engine-management components, including the fuel injectors, oxygen sensors, spark plugs, air intake manifold and other components. Bosch will integrate some components made by Tier II suppliers for the new system.

For the first time in North America, Bosch engineers will work at multiple levels with the automaker powertrain engineers to determine key performance characteristics, meeting OEM specifications and addressing issues such as noise, vibration and harshness.

Bosch has had similar engine management programs in Europe, but Bosch's engine-related business in North America has been largely component- rather than system-based. Engineers at the company's technical center in Farmington Hills, MI, will lead the program.

Total engine management is a natural outgrowth of automakers handing off more and more product development responsibilities to suppliers, especially for modules. But that trend has come with a cost for many suppliers.

Robert Oswald, who recently retired as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Bosch, has long complained that Bosch often lost money on module projects, partly because the supplier could not add enough value in terms of systems engineering.

That will not be a problem, however, with the engine management contract. A company executive says he is convinced this contract will be profitable for Bosch.