Rhetoric yields to reality ahead of NAFTA talks

The reality of NAFTA after 23 years of integration is that no single country can dictate new terms for the deal, because all have much to lose, from manufacturing in Mexico and agricultural exports in the U.S. Midwest to dairy products and lumber streaming out of Canada.

On top of the technology challenges worrying suppliers, here's one more: windshield washer fluid.

Don't laugh.

Automakers want to ensure that their vehicles have enough cleaning fluid to do a bigger job in the years ahead. They also want customers to refill their reservoirs less often, but they don't want to add weight.

Jean Marie Thrower, CEO of Supplier Development Systems in Birmingham, Ala., which markets a windshield cleaning system, says fluid systems must do more than clean windshields in the future. Vehicles will have more external cameras, radar and lidar sensors and other obstacle-detection hardware, all of which must be kept free of dirt and debris.

And automakers and their customers are increasingly mindful about the environmental impact of vehicle byproducts, she says.

"People are starting to think about how they can capture water for environmental reasons," Thrower says. "Consider that 900 million gallons of washing fluid are sold in the U.S. each year. What if we could actually reduce the washing fluid in the car?"

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