Corp. says it may be winning the battle to convince auto makers its sophisticated MagneRide suspension control system is worth the cost — and the risk.
The supplier says it has been awarded five new vehicle applications that will be in production by 2007, including two programs with European marques, broadening penetration for the system to 11 vehicles and additional brands.
The list of new models includes the first application in a truck-based SUV (but notCorp.'s new fullsize SUVs due next year), officials say.
The supplier won't identify those new customers but says the contracts involve at least three new OEMs. It expects auto makers to announce use of the technology on the auto show circuit next year, possibly as early as the Detroit exhibition in January.
Since its debut in 2002 in the Cadillac Seville, MagneRide has been exclusive to GM vehicles, where it is sold as either Magnetic Selective Ride Control or Magnetic Ride Control. It's not that GM had sole rights to use the suspension control technology, Delphi says, but simply a case of there being no other takers — until now.
“The challenge has been convincing OEs of the advantages of the system,” says David Hoptry, Delphi marketing manager-chassis systems. “And they all have their own suppliers, so switching to something new presents a risk. But as we introduce new applications with other OEs, maybe they'll see the work has been done and it's not a risk any more.
“That's what we anticipate in the future.”
Currently, MagneRide is available on the Cadillac SRX, XLR (standard), STS and DTS, Chevrolet Corvette and Buick Lucerne. The supplier says there are about 50,000 vehicles equipped with the system on U.S. roads today.
The device uses four magneto-rheological (MR) fluid-based monotube dampers (struts and/or shock absorbers), sensors and an electronic control unit to provide semi-active suspension control.
The MR fluid, which contains tiny metal particles, acts like conventional damper fluid until it is magnetized and its flow resistance increases. The degree to which the fluid “solidifies” is infinitely variable, proportional to the amount of input current supplied by electromagnets.
Delphi developed the system with MR fluid supplier Lord Corp.
The device offers a competitive advantage vs. conventional dampers or more advanced air suspension systems, Hoptry says, because it provides a greater range of damping capability and a much quicker response time.
Cost is a factor, however. And Hoptry says Delphi would like to see volumes increase in order to narrow that differential.
Hoptry declines to provide specific pricing information, saying only that the MagnaRide dampers are “scores of magnitude” more expensive than conventional passive dampers. But MagneRide can be less costly than some competitive air-controlled adjustable suspensions that often require more components to do the job, he says.
Hoptry says he expects MagneRide to remain more of a niche application on sports sedans and coupes, luxury cars and SUVs where auto makers are looking to “improve ride and handling without compromise.”
“We'd like to get higher volumes,” he says. “But I don't think it will ever be on every vehicle out there.”
Delphi, which produces MagneRide at its Kettering, OH, facility, will add output at its Krosno, Poland, damper plant beginning in 2006 to serve its new European customers.