Hella North America plans to invest more than $20-million for a new assembly line to produce electronic throttle-control systems at the company's North American headquarters and manufacturing complex in Plymouth, MI.

Joseph V. Borruso, Hella's North American president and CEO, said the new line will be installed and in full operation by the first quarter of 2001. The production facility, he added, will create up to 50 new jobs and occupy approximately 1,500-square-feet.

"We're making this investment to support a growing demand from major auto manufacturers for electronic, `drive-by-wire' accelerator and braking control systems," Borruso said. "The electronic throttle-control systems that will be produced at the Plymouth facility will incorporate new, non-contact position sensors developed and patented by Hella in Europe."

Hella is Europe's leading producer of electronic throttle control systems with a 70 percent market share. Borruso said Hella sales to OEM customers in Europe are expected to grow by 80 percent from approximately 2.5 million units in 1999 to more than 4.0 million units this year.

More than 70 percent of the cars and light trucks produced in North America are equipped with mechanical throttle-control systems which use up to six feet of cable, according to Joe Miskovich, manager of electro-mechanical engineering at Hella North America. Miskovich predicted that virtually all vehicles built in North America will have electronic accelerator controls within the next 10 years -- a potential market of at least $3 billion.

"Electronic throttle control systems generally are considered to be safer, easier to assemble, more reliable and overall less costly to produce than the mechanical systems they are replacing," Miskovich said. "Electronic throttle systems also will permit automakers to more efficiently manage electronically monitored engine-control and onboard diagnostic systems, thereby providing greater fuel efficiency."

Borruso said Hella currently supplies more than a quarter-of-a-million electronic throttle-control systems to OEMs in North America and expects that number to increase to 2.3 million or more within the next four years.

He noted that Hella's patented electronic throttle-control system provides drivers with virtually the same accelerator-pedal "feel" as conventional mechanical systems.

Hella is a tier one supplier of lighting, electronic equipment, sensors and complete vehicle front-end modules to the auto industry. Hella North America and its parent company, Hella KG Hueck & Company, have 20,000 employees at more than 30 production locations in 16 countries throughout the world. Worldwide consolidated sales for Hella during the company's 1998-99 fiscal year grew by more than 14 percent to more than $2.4 billion. Additional information about the company is available on the Internet at www.hella.de.

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