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Visteon Forms Multimedia Operation

DEARBORN, Mich. — No. 2 auto parts supplier Visteon Corp.(VC.N) said on Monday it is forming a new operation focused on accelerating its multimedia products business.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based parts supplier said the new Telematics/Multimedia business operation will be part of the company's Comfort, Communication and Safety unit, which makes up half of total sales. Telematics are in-vehicle, wireless communication, safety and information systems.

"With the increased demand by consumers for telematics and multimedia products, it is critical that Visteon create a focused group that can leverage its engineering and technology expertise to grow this business,'' Visteon Chairman, President and CEO Peter Pestillo said in a statement.

Visteon's stock closed down 5/16 at $15-5/16 a share in Monday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The new operation will concentrate on developing mobile wireless and information, entertainment, audio, safety and convenience products, the company said. Visteon cited a recent study in which UBS Warburg estimated the worldwide end-user telematics market is projected to grow to nearly $47 billion by 2010, up from an estimated $10 billion at the end of 2001.

Visteon officials didn't say what share of the market they plan to aim for other than to say it would be "significant.'' Another major competitor in this area is former General Motors Corp. (GM.N) parts unit Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. (DPH.N).

As part of its efforts to grow its telematics business, Visteon also said on Monday it has formed an alliance with iBiquity Digital Corp., a new company being created from the merger of USA Digital Radio and Lucent Digital Radio.

Visteon said it will take an ownership stake it wouldn't identify in the new company, whose owners will include Lucent Technologies Inc. (LU.N) and 15 of the nation's top 20 radio broadcasters, including Viacom Inc.'s (VIA.N) Infinity Broadcasting Corp. (INF.N) and Clear Channel Communications Inc. (CCU.N).

As part of the deal, Visteon will develop a working prototype radio using iBiquity's digital AM and FM broadcast technology for incorporation into future radio platforms.

In addition, Visteon will make its Digital Signal Processing technology available to select radio chip manufacturers for sale to radio set makers.

Overall, Visteon said it has secured nearly $550 million of annual, incremental telematics and multimedia business this year.

Customers including former Visteon parent Ford Motor Co. (F.N), GM, and Japan's Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (7267.T) and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (7201.T)(RENA.PA) have sourced such Visteon products as navigation, communication, entertainment, in-car computing and audio systems on several future vehicles, some in the 2001 model year. It also is a supplier for Wingcast, the recent telematics venture by Ford and Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM.O).

Visteon has partnerships with such firms as Bang & Olufson, Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI.O), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O), Intel Corp. (INTC.O) and Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV (LHSP.O).

Jim Wynalek will lead the new telematics operation as its vice president and general manager. Prior to his new position, he was Visteon's chief technical officer.

Also on Monday, Visteon said it will begin offering in October in North America a portable navigation system offering drivers the option of installing the system in any vehicle. In a matter of minutes, drivers are able to disconnect, reconnect and be on their way to the next destination.

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