Andy Whydell, TRW’s Senior Manager for Global Electronics Product Planning

Andy Whydell, TRW’s Senior Manager for Global Electronics Product Planning

TRW has been active in keyless entry for many years, albeit as a relatively small player.  Similar radio frequency (RF) technology underpins both keyless entry and tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), the latter being a technology in which TRW is one of the leading global players.  As vehicle companies look to integrate the two systems, TRW is well-positioned to take advantage of this change in the market.  Recently, TRW announced a new passive entry (PE) contract on the Dodge Ram.  Following this announcement, Ian Henry spoke to Andy Whydell, TRW’s Senior Manager for Global Electronics Product Planning, and Tim Hannon, Sales Manager, RF Products about the company’s activities in the sector and market trends.

Can we start with a bit of history: how long has TRW been in the keyless entry market?

TRW was actually a pioneer in remote keyless entry (RKE) systems; we have been involved in this business since the 1980s!

TRW is not currently well-known in this segment: where have you been active in the market during this time?

TRW and its’ subsidiaries have been continuously present in the market from the 1980s through to today, although our presence has been smaller at some points in the past; TRW was more active in RKE in the late ‘90s in North America than it has been in recent years. That said, we have been present in this product area in Asia throughout, supplying Toyota.  

Can you explain how TRW first got into this business?

TRW got into keyless entry through the acquisition of the electrical division of the Wickes Manufacturing Company in 1990, and then expanded into tyre pressure monitoring in the early 2000s as that market began to grow – both products rely heavily on similar radio frequency (RF) technology.  

Did you start by offering the two systems together or independently?

RKE was an established product line when TRW acquired Wickes; the TPMS systems came later. Due to differences in fitment rates, the two systems have historically been independent – originally RKE fitment rates were higher than TPMS. However, as fitment rates for RKE and TPMS begin to approach 100% in Western markets, vehicle companies are asking for the two systems to be combined into a single RF system.

What has led to a revival in TRW’s activity here?

This goes back to the technology links with TPMS; we also see RKE as a logical extension of our business in the TPMS market.  TRW’s TPMS business has been very successful over the last ten years and has actually outgrown the RKE business - TPMS is now a legal/mandatory requirement on many new cars, having been required in the USA on new vehicles since 2007 and more recently on new vehicles launched in Europe since November 2012. Moreover, TPMS will be required for all new cars sold in Europe from November 2014.

So do you sell the two systems together?

Historically, the TPMS and RKE/PE systems have been treated as two separate systems by the vehicle manufacturers; one is a chassis/safety product and the other is a “convenience” product. However, the two technologies are getting closer all the time, especially as a single RF receiver can fulfil both functions and the systems are complementary; one normally operates with the ignition off and the other with the ignition on.  The car companies have realised this and begun to ask for combined RF system which can do perform both functions. This led to the integration of RKE or PE with TPMS systems.

Please tell us a little more about the recently announced PE contract on the Ram... 

This contract is actually the first PE product launch for TRW, although we actually started development work on Passive Entry systems around five years ago.

What is unique about the TRW system here?

The PE system on the Ram is similar to other PE systems on the market in terms of how drivers will perceive its functionality.  However, behind the front end, there are some unique aspects to the way in which it works and links with other systems. TRW’s USP is the way in which we get different systems on the car work together.

Will this be a standard fit item, or an option?

The system will be an option and it will certainly be interesting to see how popular it is and how quickly it is adopted in the pick-up market.  The Ram is the first full-size pick-up with PE in the USA market: Chrysler is taking the lead here.

What about geographic differences in terms of PE take-up around the world?

We see PE as most popular in Asian markets and with Asian OEMs.  The highest fitment rates are in Japan and South Korea, where we see fitment rates in those regions approaching 50%; it is higher in larger and premium vehicle segments and lower in others. In South America, we think traditional RKE systems are around 70% fitment and passive entry fitment rates are probably in the low single digits. 

Passive Entry is also very popular with female drivers, as the vehicle can be unlocked and started as long as the keyfob is present in a coat pocket, purse or hand-bag – there is no need to find the keys every time!

And in Europe and North America?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's QUBE research service

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more