Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America (MEAA) expects an expanded sales office and new testing facilities in suburban Detroit will lead to faster sales growth in engine control systems, powertrain products and vehicle entertainment and navigation systems, according to a report in the Detroit News.

The paper said MEAA, the North American engineering, manufacturing, sales, marketing and distribution arm of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation of Japan (no connection to the vehicle maker) started with a sales office in Detroit in 1979 and began manufacturing operations in 1988 in Mason, Ohio, where it is now based.

The Detroit News said MEAA last autumn moved its Detroit operations to a new industrial park where its 118,000 square feet includes an 18,000-square-foot research and development operation.

The company invested $5 million in an all-weather dynamometer chamber where engines can be tested for emissions, fuel economy and other driving capabilities and cars can be tested in temperatures ranging from 40 below to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, the report added.

MEAA senior vice president Michael DeLano told the Detroit News that the new plant enables the company to go after engine management systems business, which includes the engine control module and a whole gamut of sensors, and can test systems and calibrate engines locally, instead of in Japan where most of the components are manufactured.

Best customer Chrysler accounts for 45% of MEAA sales but the company in 2001 signed a nine-year contract with GM to provide starter coils worth $US730 million while other customers include Ford, Honda, Isuzu, Nissan, Subaru, Volvo and Mitsubishi Motors, the Detroit News said.

The paper said Mitsubishi is well known for its audio components and has added rear-seat DVD players to its entertainment line, including an in-dash DVD six-disc changer for the Chrysler Pacifica, as well as supplying a navigation system to Volvo.

MEAA produces 2.5 million radios annually, but DVD sales will be the big growth area, Michael Antrim of MEAA's audio/video & communications division told the Detroit News. He believes that in the near future rear-seat systems will be purchased in 20% of vehicles with three rows of seating, the report added.

MEAA president Minoru "Mickey" Kurisaki told the Detroit News that sales will increase from $650 million for the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2003, to $700 million for this fiscal year. He said sales are fairly evenly divided between entertainment products and powertrain products, the paper noted.