TRAVERSE CITY, MI – As auto makers introduce more varied powertrains, suppliers say they are rising to the challenge.

Supplier talk at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars revolves around promoting new engine technology, with each company claiming to be better than the next.

“In some cases, we have been a leader in advancing specific technologies, such as electronic stability control, antilock brakes, clean diesel, gasoline direct injection and start/stop,” Bosch Chairman Werner Struth tells an audience here.

“We pioneered the development of these technologies and are now seeing an increase in demand around the globe, with Bosch having a strong market position.”

At BASF, the focus is on developing technology that meets California’s strict low-emissions-vehicle standards.

“The name of the game for us is to help the OEMs cost-effectively comply with those regulations,” Jim Chirumbole, vice president-mobile emissions catalysts, tells WardsAuto, noting the company has developed a new catalytic material for converters to reduce emissions.

Suppliers say they want to be ahead of the curve, anticipating what OEMs want before they ask for it.

“For certain parts of (technology), it’s not difficult to say we won’t invest in that. And there are cases where we have to make a bet with where our business should go,” Chirumbole says.

Struth says Bosch maintains a diversified product portfolio. “We investigate future market demands, sometimes 20 years ahead or more, to better understand how they will impact our business.”

The relationship between suppliers and OEMs is improving, some say.

“The Asian (auto makers) are still consistent, and that hasn’t changed,” Chirumbole says. “They’ve always treated suppliers like partners. I would say the American car companies have moved a great deal in that direction as well.”

afoley@wardsauto.com