Kutner: Suppliers need more minority partners

Harold Kutner, group vice president of Worldwide Purchasing at General Motors Corp., encourages Tier 1 automotive suppliers to expand their business with minority-owned suppliers. “GM has made a huge commitment to the minority supplier community, but the entire automotive supply chain needs to review their business plans and make the same commitment,” Mr. Kutner says in a Feb. 14 speech at Oakland University in Rochester, MI, on behalf of a minority scholarship fund. “It's vital that we do so to maintain America's global competitiveness.”

Since 1986, Mr. Kutner says GM has expanded its business with minority suppliers every year. In 2000, GM purchased $2.3 billion in parts from more than 600 minority suppliers in the U.S.

This year, GM will increase its business with minority suppliers by at least an additional one-half percent. “And we will maintain that growth every year until we are spending at least 10% of our North American purchases with minority business enterprises,” Mr. Kutner says.

Defiance faces wrongful death suit

It was only a matter of time before this tragedy ended up in the courts. The family of Geoffrey Matthew Lazarecki files a wrongful death lawsuit in Michigan's Oakland County Circuit Court against Defiance Testing and Engineering Services Inc. Mr. Lazarecki froze to death in a stainless steel cold-weather test chamber at Defiance's automotive testing facility in Troy, MI, last Aug. 15.

The complaint alleges that Defiance willfully subjected Mr. Lazarecki to a dangerous work environment. The complaint also alleges Defiance, anticipating a lawsuit, deliberately destroyed evidence by dismantling the steel chamber, which prevented a thorough investigation.

Mr. Lazarecki, 30, had started his job at Defiance five weeks earlier and was completing his degree at Wayne State University to become an engineer. Defiance had been hired by Visteon Corp. to test modifications to the steering column system used on Ford Explorers. The changes were designed to prevent the steering column and key ignition from freezing in extreme cold.

Attorneys say Defiance was under a strict timetable to complete the testing, since production on all Ford Explorers had been halted until Visteon corrected the problem.

Exatec invests in new polycarbonate process

Exatec LLC, the automotive glazing joint venture between Bayer AG and GE Plastics, will make a multimillion-dollar investment to install a production-scale plasma deposition line in its Wixom, MI, facility. The new equipment will be installed in the third quarter of 2001, and production is slated for mid-2002.

Exatec, a 50-50 joint venture, was formed in 1998 to develop the materials coating and process required for polycarbonate automotive windows. Polycarbonate glazing offers weight savings of up to 50%, as well as improved safety and security, recyclability and more styling freedom.

With its new equipment, Exatec says it will apply the glass-like top layer by a proprietary plasma deposition process. This process provides a high rate of deposition combined with lower deposition temperatures. The new technology, which improves on the venture's ExatecPlus glazing, should improve weatherability, allow for additional functional plasma layers and deliver cost productivity.

Bayer and GE are the world's two largest polycarbonate producers. Polycarbonate windows offer increased occupant retention during side impact and rollovers and can prevent smash-and-grab car theft.

Around the Industry

  • Donnelly Corp. acquires all of the remaining stock of Donnelly Electronics Inc. of Holly, MI, which will allow Donnelly to integrate electronics in both interior and exterior mirrors. Donnelly previously held a minority interest in the unit.

  • Johnson Controls Inc. reportedly plans to build a new automotive headquarters and technology center in Salem Township west of Detroit. The company told township officials that it has outgrown its 10-year-old headquarters building in nearby Plymouth Township, according to The Ann Arbor News. It's unclear when construction begins. The company says the new complex could be built within 15 years and would employ 1,700 people. There would be room for another 2,000 employees. JCI has signed an option to buy land from a developer.

  • Throwing a bone to investors, Eaton Corp. reports with breathless excitement that it has a $500 million contract to supply General Motors Corp. with “advanced powertrain technology” for an undisclosed future program. The company says the technology will improve fuel economy without sacrificing power and performance. Eaton is working on cylinder deactivation, but the company declines to say if that is the technology GM wants.