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Consumers are confused about antilock braking systems, so ITT Automotive is going on the offensive with a program to tout the benefits.

The parts supplier, a division of ITT Industries, said it is spending several million dollars on an educational campaign to emphasize ABS' prevention of wheel lock-up during braking.

The ad campaign started running last week on Detroit radio stations, in local newspapers and on mobile outdoor boards. Other print ads appear in automotive trade magazines.

The ads -- themed "Safety is a standard, not an option" -- primarily target automotive industry executives. Chapin & Co., Southfield, Mich., handles.


The company also has recruited race-car driver Lyn St. James to tout the benefits of ABS in a safety education program. Last summer, it conducted a series of clinics to show the public how vehicles equipped with ABS perform better than those without the technology.

"My intent was to give this a kick start," said Frank Macher, president, ITT Automotive.

Earlier this decade, makers of ABS were hopeful their devices would soon become standard equipment on light vehicles. But, according to ITT Automotive, the rate of ABS penetration in the U.S. for the 1996 model year was only about 62%, and growth has leveled off.


The ABS industry, hit by mixed reviews from the insurance industry and safety researchers, and pressed by automakers trying to cut costs, has been retrenching.

Automakers are leaving it up to consumers to decide if they want ABS on their cars and trucks. Making ABS optional, especially on mid-priced and economy vehicles, is one way car marketers can limit price increases.

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