"This technology is known to us," said Doug Carson, a former Delphi engineering manager who is now BWI's global director of engineering.
"We've grown up with it," he says of the technology. "We lived with it. We've seen it in its best and worst states. It's encouraging how something introduced in 2002 can still be relevant in 2017."
Delphi developed a second generation of the technology but progress stalled as financial troubles mounted. The BWI acquisition brought new life, Carson said.
"All of the sudden you're a new company, and the owners want to make investments," he recalled. "We had access to capital that we had not seen before. We had questions like, 'How many people do you need to hire to do this?' We hadn't had that question for a few years."
A Delphi spokesman declined to comment on the 2009 deal.
BWI does not reveal global sales figures and declined to estimate the portion of sales that come from MagneRide systems. In 2015, the company broke ground on a plant in the Czech Republic to serve European customers. BWI said at the time that it expected to increase its global MagneRide business by half by 2020. The company's only other North American plant is in Chihuahua, Mexico, which supplies the U.S.
The new age
Despite giving up MagneRide, Delphi is healthier and more focused now. This year, Delphi embarked on a strategic move to split into two companies. Its powertrain operations will constitute one, while its advanced electronics operations will become a supplier of systems and services for autonomous transportation.
MagneRide, under BWI, is continuing to make advances, too.
MagneRide is a computer-controlled high-end vehicle damping system that employs a magnetic field to create smoother rides. The system uses road data updates 1,000 times a second to adapt to changing driving conditions.
Instead of mechanical valves, the dampers rely on sensors, electromagnetic coils and electronic control units to generate and manage a magnetic field that alters a "smart fluid" in the dampers to stiffen or soften road response as needed.
Dellinger, who also came with the technology from Delphi engineering to BWI, said MagneRide was viewed as a moonshot when it was in development at Delphi. Some outside the company believed it simply wouldn't work, he said, and as if in a display of gallows humor, the r&d department had a list on the wall of all the reasons the technology wouldn't work.
But Dellinger said nights at the Dayton offices typically found the project team working until 7 and 8 p.m. "because we all believed in it so much."