By Mark Phillips
Who knew it would be 110 degrees in mid-October in Troy, MI?
With nearly 45 percent humidity, that was the temperature inside the climatic wind tunnel at Behr’s North American headquarters. It’s where Behr brutalizes vehicles under simulated blaring sunlit conditions to see how well air conditioning systems will perform and how well HVAC systems will cooperate with engine cooling components. Every conceivable driving condition, from huge variances in temperature and humidity, solar radiation and loads on vehicles are tested. The tunnel also can blast air through at about 125 mph.
Behr and joint venture Behr Hella Service hosted an event for automotive editors Oct. 13, during which guests were invited into the company’s wind tunnel and to view some of the company’s product lines. Guests were invited into the tunnel only for so long due to the extreme temperature. Behr’s other wind tunnel resides in Stuttgart, Germany. The Troy tunnel features two pairs of rollers on which a vehicle’s wheels can sit during testing.
The testing can reveal some surprises. For example, a particular A/C compressor was found to make too much noise when use in conjunction with other components during a test. Other components like actuators may make too much noise during certain temperatures, which is something that could best be discovered by utilizing the climatic wind tunnel.
Behr is a leading OE supplier for thermal management, engine cooling and air conditioning components and systems, according to the company.
Heinz Otto, president of Behr America, Torsten Waldheim, managing director of Behr America Service Parts and Roland Grimm, head of product management for Behr Hella Service, gave an overview of the various companies and their directions for the future.
Behr Hella Service began in 2005 in Europe as a joint venture between Behr Service and Hella to comprise Behr’s independent automotive aftermarket business worldwide, according to the companies. In 2007, BHS NAFTA was formed and located in Peachtree City, Ga., and serves the U.S., Canadian and Mexican markets. The following year, the company expanded its reach beyond “European only” parts into Japanese and Korean applications.
In 2010, Behr sales were $4.37 billion worldwide, with 21 percent of that coming from North America, Otto said. Behr and Hella have other joint ventures including: Hella Behr Plastic Omnium (HBPO) GmbH, which designs, develops and produces automotive front-end modules for cars and trucks; and Behr-Hella Thermocontrol (BHTC) GmbH, which develops and manufactures climate controls.
The Behr Hella Service North America portfolio covers more than 500 passenger car engine cooling parts (radiators, oil coolers, fans and fan clutches, etc) more than 500 passenger car air conditioning parts (compressors, condensers, heater cores, evaporators) as well as about 200 parts for heavy duty truck applications, according to press materials from the company.
Behr Hella Service and Hella, an expert in lighting technology and electronics, has substantially increased its coverage of Asian vehicles with new A/C, heater, and engine cooling part numbers for various makes and models, according to the company. Applications are included for Acura, Daewoo, Honda, KIA, Hyundai, Infiniti, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Scion, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.
The two companies also have more than 120 part numbers in its heavy-duty truck thermal management parts program, including new replacement parts listings for Dodge, Ford, Freightliner, International, Mack, Sterling and Volvo trucks, according to the company.
Recent additions include, blowers, blower regulators, condensers, evaporators, expansion valves, heater cores, HVAC actuators, radiators and resistors, the company said.
Additions to the 2011 BHS Heavy-Duty program are detailed and listed in a Heavy Duty Range Supplement, which is available in a print version and online at www.hellausa.com.