As automotive manufacturers turn their attention to producing ever more advanced automobiles, the usage of automotive sensors continues to rise. Frost & Sullivan, the international marketing consulting company, expect demand for automotive sensors to continue on an upward trend following the arrival of new technologies and applications.

In recent years, rising car production and increasing product usage have prompted mounting growth within the European market for automotive sensors. Market revenues will increase from US$1.15 billion in 1999 to US$1.76 billion by 2006. In addition, Frost & Sullivan calculate the compound annual growth rate to reach 6.3 per cent over the forecast period, 1999-2006.

Demands for reduced emissions and increased safety requirements by the automotive sector are expected to be major drivers of future market growth. Frost & Sullivan Research Manager, Mik Sabiers comments: ?Future growth is anticipated to derive from wider usage of anti-lock brake systems (ABS), electronic stability programme (ESP) and position sensors in the short term, and gas sensors in the next few years.? However, declining rates of automobile production and pricing pressures from automobile manufacturers will be two key areas to challenge manufacturers over the forecast period.

In 1999 the largest product segment was the market for speed sensors, accounting for 25.2 per cent of the total market. The Gas sensor markets will experience continued expansion, becoming the largest market segment by the end of the forecast period. Growth is being stimulated by EU emissions legislation, including the Euro 2000 measures and further regulations are expected in 2005 which should drive the market forward.

With over a third of all automobile production located in Germany, this country market is understandably the largest. A position that is further underpinned by the highest rates of ABS and ESP installation within the region. Germany and second placed France are both expected to profit from national tax legislation, measures that are encouraging the replacement of older automobiles. Benefiting substantially from new investment, Spain lies in third place, followed by the United Kingdom.

The market is largely comprised of multinational corporations, led by Robert Bosch, Siemens Automotive and Sylea. Automobile manufacturers exert extensive purchasing power over the industry, this has particular implications for the market?s composition. Mik Sabiers comments: ?Suppliers of sensors and sensor systems are mostly large companies that are able to manufacture in large volumes at low cost while continually investing in research and development.?

Important technological advances include the development of micro-mechanical systems (micro-systems) and further enhancement of silicon micro-machining. Prices for new technologies have fallen in recent years, facilitating more extensive market penetration. Examples of products recently commercialised in the market include fuel injection pressure, NOx and torque sensors.

The European market for automotive sensors will witness healthy growth over the forecast period, growth that will run parallel with automobile manufacturers attempting to provide more advanced products. As numerous application markets become saturated, the development of new technology and the pursuit of new product applications will grow ever more important. Strategies that are further emphasised by the rising levels of competition within the industry, particularly from North American and Far Eastern manufacturers.

The expansion of product ranges and where relevant the development of new technology are seen as key factors in the pursuit of future market success. Joint ventures and merger/acquisition strategies are acknowledged as a viable means for manufacturers to explore such factors. The search for and specialisation within niche markets should remain under constant review, primarily as a process to maintain market share in an increasingly competitive industry.