Behr America Inc. has taken a long and indirect road to Detroit. The air conditioning and engine cooling systems subsidiary of Germany-based Behr Group has done business in the U.S. since 1969, setting up operations in New Jersey and later Charleston, SC; Fort Worth, TX; and Canton, SD.

A year ago, the company inched closer to metro Detroit by opening a plant in Webberville, MI, near Lansing, that produces the industry's first electronically actuated engine cooling fan clutches for General Motors Corp. '02 midsize sport/utility vehicles.

But the company insisted on a North American headquarters and technical center in the auto hub of metro Detroit, and it wanted a site readily visible from a major highway to help Behr become more of a household name. Like many European-based suppliers, Behr chose a site along the Interstate 75 corridor in Troy.

Ward's Supplier Index
4/26/2001 % Chg.
Prev. Week
% Chg.
Yr. to Date
Ward's Index 83.4 -0.6 -0.5
DaimlerChrysler 49.9 1.9 11.5
Ford 29.2 -3.6 8.4
GM 55.4 -2.3 -3.0
S&P 500 1,234.5 -1.5 -7.4
Note: This index is a weighted average with a 100-point base figured from 1/2/97. For details see Jan. 22, '01 insert.
Source: Ward's.

In dedicating the facility last Thursday, Behr Group Chief Executive Horst Geidel says Behr is targeting branching out from its position as the heavy truck AC and engine cooling systems leader into a key player in the light vehicle market. The challenge is enormous, as top suppliers Delphi Automotive Systems, Visteon Corp., Valeo SA and Denso Corp. dominate the market via long-standing affiliations with automakers.

Mr. Geidel says his company's advantage is its technology, its diverse customer base and its ability to compete on price. He expects sales will double to $500 million by 2005.

In other supplier news: Korea's Mando Corp. reportedly has inked a $265 million parts supply deal with General Motors Corp. Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. idled 990 workers last week in Ohio, Indiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Michigan, Washington and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Delphi says it will build a plant in Senica, Slovakia, that will supply wiring for the upcoming Volkswagen midsize sport/utility vehicle. It will employ more than 1,000. Metals producer OM Group reportedly is getting ready to buy the precious metals and catalysts unit of Germany's Degussa AG for about $1.5 million including $400 million in debt. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. reports a first quarter loss of $46.7 million and says it will cut 600 more jobs for a total of 7,800 jobs or 7% of its global workforce. ArvinMeritor Inc. will close its 230-person light vehicle aftermarket operations plant in Pulaski, TN, by year end and reassign replacement shock absorbers and work to plants in Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Oklahoma. Siemens Automotive Corp. is seeking to build a $67 million, 250,000 sq.-ft. vehicle and application engineering facility in Auburn Hills, MI, that could create 1,231 new jobs.

The Ward's Supplier Index fell 0.6% for the week ending April 26, outperforming the Standard & Poor's 500. Of the 65 companies on the Index, 33 gained.