3M Automotive opens a 60,000-sq.-ft. innovation center in Livonia, MI, to highlight its technologies, including acoustical insulation, filters, adhesives and decorative trim products, for potential automotive customers.

The facility features a multi-function theater capable of 3D visualization, on-line design, engineering and worldwide communications. A sky-lit rotunda is used to display vehicles, modular concepts and prototypes, as well as graphic products. Surrounding the rotunda are laboratories, a design studio and application development areas.

Visitors will find the facility's “roll up your sleeves” atmosphere conducive to product development and problem solving, says Tom Beddow, executive director of the innovation center.

The company expects to use the facility to interact with both original equipment and supplier customers, as well as its own suppliers. Staffing the facility are 100 program managers, design and technical support personnel representing 17 3M product divisions serving automotive. The two-story building has potential for a 30,000-sq.-ft. addition.

3M technologies on display at the opening reception last week included an adhesive applied to a weather strip, which could then be installed on a door or window frame robotically, eliminating the labor-intensive task of drilling holes and attaching fasteners.

3M also showed a new generation of Thinsulate for better sound absorption in vehicles and its Filtrete cabin air filters, which can eliminate odors such as diesel exhaust and industrial fumes inside the vehicle cabin.

Ward's Supplier Index
7/22/'99 % Chg.
Prev. Week
% Chg.
Yr. to Date
Ward's Index 131.6 0.7 7.1
DaimlerChrysler 77.6 -10.7 -28.0
Ford 52.0 -3.6 -15.8
GM 64.0 -2.6 -17.5
S&P 500 1,341.03 -1.5 5.6
Note: This index is a weighted average with a 100-point base figured from 1/2/97. For details see Ward's Automotive Reports, May 3, '99, insert.
Source: Ward's/Roney Capital Markets.

In other supplier news: Delphi Automotive Systems announces it will buy 5.5 million shares of Akebono Brake Industry Co., a Tokyo-based supplier of brakes to Japanese vehicle manufacturers. The investment is valued at about $15 million and represents a 5.9% stake in the company. Freudenberg-NOK purchases Farnam*Meillor, a manufacturer of gaskets and gasket assemblies, for an undisclosed amount. Dana Corp. says it will sell Gresen, its global hydraulic operations with sales of about $135 million in 1998. Federal-Mogul Corp. celebrates its 100th year in business. The company began in 1899 as a mill supply company, then moved into bearing manufacturing and has broadened its reach within the auto industry, completing more than a dozen acquisitions since 1997. Visteon Automotive Systems will partner with Venture Industries to open a $25 million manufacturing facility in Benton Harbor, MI. The 77,000-sq. ft. facility will initially employ 100 people and will manufacture door trim panels, speaker enclosures, instrument panel components, and Visteon's new Rear Seat Entertainment System. Ernie Green Industries announces a new $18 million auto parts plant named Marion Industries Inc. that will begin production of suspension assemblies for Honda of America Mfg. in March 2000. William Controls Inc. purchases the assets of the ProActive Pedals division of Active Tool & Mfg. Co., a leading designer and developer of patented adjustable foot pedal systems for $5.75 million.

The Ward's Supplier Index gained 0.7% ahead of the 1.5% decline of the Standard & Poor's 500. Of the 59 companies tracked, 46 lost ground.