In an industry breakthrough, BorgWarner Inc. (NYSE: BWA) is launching the first electronically controlled four-wheel drive system for a front-wheel drive vehicle. Known as InterActive Torque Management(TM), the system will be introduced on the Acura MDX, a luxury sports-utility vehicle (SUV) available to consumers in September. Acura expects to sell about 40,000 units annually.

BorgWarner InterActive Torque Management(TM), which Acura calls Variable Torque Management on the MDX, offers consumers better handling and fuel economy, improved security, and more flexibility than passive, mechanical four-wheel drive systems. The patented technology electronically senses when a vehicle’s front wheels slip and instantaneously transfers power to the rear axle, from side to side and even to a single wheel.

BorgWarner engineers based the new system on their electronic innovations in rear-wheel drive systems for larger sport-utility vehicles first introduced in the mid-1990s. Anticipating that consumers will appreciate the same safety and handling features in their front-wheel drive vehicles, BorgWarner is adapting the electronic technology for minivans, station wagons, cars and crossover vehicles (SUVs on car platforms).

“BorgWarner has again created the benchmark against which other four-wheel drive systems will be measured,” said Timothy Manganello, president of BorgWarner TorqTransfer Systems. “In the future, we foresee the security and versatility of all-wheel and four-wheel drive systems as standard equipment on all cars — not just SUVs and trucks. By adapting our four-wheel drive technology to front-wheel drive passenger cars, we expect to tap into a market with an estimated growth rate of approximately 200% by the year 2009.”

As a lightweight “smart” system, BorgWarner InterActive Torque Management(TM) improves fuel economy and reduces emissions compared with today’s mechanical systems. With the BorgWarner system, the four-wheel drive is not engaged continuously, but is only used as needed. Unlike other systems, BorgWarner InterActive Torque Management(TM) is also fully interactive with other vehicle systems such as anti-lock brake and vehicle dynamic systems. The enhanced traction and stability provided by the new technology is an added benefit for extreme off-road as well as towing applications.

BorgWarner TorqTransfer Systems is the leading independent global designer and producer of transfer cases and systems for four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles for the sport-utility and light truck markets. Major customers include Ford Motor Company, Mercedes-Benz, Isuzu Motors Ltd. and General Motors Corp.

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Chicago-based BorgWarner is a product leader in highly engineered components and systems for vehicle powertrain applications worldwide. The company operates 60 manufacturing and technical facilities in 13 countries. Customers include Ford, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Caterpillar, Navistar, PSA and VW/Audi Group. The Internet address for BorgWarner is .