Active Tool & Mfg. has engaged Credit Suisse First Boston and Roney & Co. to explore strategic alternatives ranging from an alliance or merger to the re-capitalization or sale of the company.

Suppliers such as Magna International, Tower Automotive Inc., The Budd Co. and Oxford Automotive already have started to gobble up competitors and partners, and the demands of automakers means pressure is growing for the remaining players, says Active Chief Executive Fred Schoen.

Outsourcing of engineering and the increased expertise required for modular design both play a role, he says.

Ward's Supplier Index
1/21/'99 % Chg.
Prev. Week
% Chg.
Yr. to Date
Ward's Index 118.3 -0.2 -3.7
DaimlerChrysler 105.6 4.1 -2.0
Ford 62.1 2.8 0.5
GM 89.9 11.5 16.0
S&P 500 1,235.16 1.9 -2.7
Note: This index is a weighted average with a 100-point base figured from 1/2/97. For details see Ward's Automotive Reports, Jan. 18, '99, insert.
Source: Ward's/Roney Capital Markets.

Active invested $100 million in a new Michigan stamping plant with one of the largest tandem stamping lines in the world — the facility will be 380,000 sq.-ft. when it's finished.

“It's still not enough,” Mr. Schoen says. “We're going to continue to experience growth and we're going to need to keep up with capital expenditures.”

Throughout the sheet metal/die industry, similar discussions are being waged. Small shops formed by Austrian and German craftsman in Canada are undergoing similar studies as owners try to decide how best to continue their legacy, or look to cash out for retirement.

In recent days Ford Motor Co. bought Troy Design and Mfg. and rumors are hot major tool and die maker Pico is talking with Fiat Spa.

“You need critical mass. The bar keeps going up on what it takes to be a Tier 1 supplier,” Mr. Schoen says.

In other supplier news: Dura Automotive Systems Inc. and Excel Industries Inc. enter into a definitive merger agreement expected to close during the second quarter 1999, pending stockholder and regulatory approval. United Technologies Corp. retains Goldman, Sachs & Co. to explore strategic alternatives for its automotive business suggesting a long rumored sale or merger. Federal-Mogul Corp. acquires the camshaft machining operations of Crane Technologies Group Inc. located in Orlando, IN, and Jackson, MI. The Southfield, MI-based supplier also is awarded its first total engine-sealing package by DaimlerChrysler Corp. worth an estimated $30 million annually. Century Tube Corp. begins construction on its new auto tube plant in Madison, IN. The $10 million project, to be completed in September, will manufacture steel tube products including safety door impact beams, auto exhaust pipe and auto black mechanical tubing.

The Ward's Supplier Index was flat for the period ending Jan. 21. Breed Technology Inc. plunged on an announcement that its chief financial officer has left and losses are expected in the next quarter.