TRW Automotive plans to expand in Asia, with a preliminary agreement in place to begin producing air bags in Shanghai, China.
The company hopes to add steering wheels eventually through a Chinese joint venture.
"It's a good time to be there and to be involved with a local manufacturer," TRW spokesman Gary Klasen said Feb. 7.
Shanghai TRW Automotive Safety Systems Co. Ltd. is a joint venture between TRW Automotive — a division of Cleveland-based TRW Inc. — and Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp., which has produced seat belts with TRW since 1997.
TRW now imports air bags made in Europe for Chinese-made cars, including Volkswagen AG's Jetta and Passat and Chinese automaker Jinbei Automotive Co.
Air bags typically are not placed in China's vehicles, with only about 25,000 built annually carrying the safety systems, Klasen said. Automakers turn out more than 500,000 cars each year in the country.
But car buyers who have the means want the same options and equipment as Western and Japanese products, he said. Starting air-bag production in China will position the firm for future growth.
"There are not a lot of them right now, but we're seeing increased interest," Klasen said.