US-based supplier Microheat claims to have a winning product with its system (dubbed HotShot) that heats windshield-washer fluid and controls wipers to more effectively clean grease, dead insects and frost from the glass. Matthew Beecham talked to Gary Pilibosian, chief executive officer of Microheat, about the company's HotShot technology, determining how it works, which OEMs are interested in it and its prospects for growth in the OE and aftermarket.

just-auto: How does HotShot work?

Gary Pilibosian: Microheat's proprietary HotShot features a patented cycling technology that intelligently heats washer fluids to the right temperatures and sprays them at specific intervals to quickly and efficiently remove snow, ice, bugs and road grime from windshields, windows, headlights and radar sensors.  HotShot seamlessly integrates into existing vehicle hardware, software, and mechanical architecture. The innovation represents one of the biggest changes and technological developments in the wiper and washer system market to date.
just-auto: Was the device initially aimed at the aftermarket or the OE?

Gary Pilibosian: Microheat is a tier-one supplier targeting OEMs.  General Motors first adopted HotShot and featured the revolutionary system on the 2005 Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS and developed an advertising campaign featuring Tiger Woods, and also the "Snowflake" campaign for TV specifically featuring the HotShot technology.  In response to its popularity—enhancing consumer convenience, comfort and safety—GM now features HotShot on a wide range of SUVs, full size trucks and luxury vehicles.

In August 2007, the company exported HotShot to Japan where Toyota is featuring HotShot on several of its Corolla models including the Fielder station wagon, Axio sedan, and the Auris and Blade hatchbacks. Toyota/Daihatsu featured HotShot on its Be-Go vehicle starting last year. Microheat also exports HotShot to another leading Asian automaker.

Last October, Microheat attained a landmark by producing its one millionth HotShot unit.

just-auto: How is each market (OE and aftermarket) shaping-up?

Gary Pilibosian: Microheat is targeting the OEM market and that is going exceptionally well.  General Motors continues adding HotShot to new platforms, most recently the Cadillac CTS, the 2008 Motor Trend Car of the Year.  The activity with Toyota and another OEM in Asia is exciting. 

just-auto: Why has it taken so long for automakers to get excited about it?

Gary Pilibosian: We feel enthused by the rapid adaptation by automakers. Introducing a new product generally involves a long, thorough process that includes testing and packaging phases and in the best case takes two years. With HotShot, once GM integrated the system on its Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS, it quickly expanded the feature to many other platforms within a year.

just-auto: Automakers are continually looking for cost down.  Why are they getting excited about novel technologies such as yours which adds to cost?

Gary Pilibosian: To remain competitive, OEMs are always seeking new features that add value for consumers and retailers. HotShot has proven to be a feature that enhances customer satisfaction, convenience and safety, and is a value that can easily be communicated by retailers. Replacing the ice scraper and squeegee with an automatic push-button solution is an easy feature to sell!

just-auto: As I understand it, HotShot is not just a benefit to have on your car in cold weather but also for wiping bugs off your windshield in warmer climates, too?

Gary Pilibosian: HotShot is a year-round system.  Once the snow and ice melt, drivers must contend with spring and summer nuisances like dust, rain, mud, road grime, sticky pollen, and swarms of bugs, which are nearly impossible to scrape off with a squeegee.  Messy bird droppings and tree sap plague drivers throughout the year and into the autumn.  Standard washer/wiper systems never quite do the job right, while HotShot can clean the debris from your windshield literally within seconds, with the push of a button.

just-auto: What are the prospects for growth? 

Gary Pilibosian: Microheat has grown significantly over the course of the past ten years. This year, we tripled our space and production capabilities.

just-auto:  If demand shoots through the roof, can you satisfy demand with existing production capacity?

Gary Pilibosian: Yes.  In July 2007, Microheat tripled its space at the company's new corporate headquarters and global manufacturing centre in Farmington Hills, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.  The 51,000 square foot facility enables Microheat to triple its production capabilities.  The new building provides the space necessary to house the infrastructure to be a global automotive supplier. In the last year, also Microheat added a significant number of technical, administrative and manufacturing positions.

just-auto:  When will it appear in Europe?  How about its prospects in Japan?

Gary Pilibosian: We are thrilled to have penetrated the Japanese market through Toyota Corollas and Daihatsu.  We hope to continue working in Japan and look forward to breaking into the European market as well. 

just-auto: HotShot is being continually developed.  What have been the latest developments?

Gary Pilibosian: In the future, Microheat expects to offer the HotShot technology for de-icing and clearing headlamps as well as other applications to enhance driver convenience and safety. The company is continuing to refine and improve the product.

Global market review of automotive wiper systems - forecasts to 2014