The president of Continental Auto-motive Systems tells Ward's he hopes “very soon” to consolidate the newly acquired metro Detroit offices of Motorola Inc. with Continental's North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, MI.

German-based Continental announced the $1 billion purchase of Motorola's automotive electronics business in April 2006 and has spent the past year integrating Motorola's products (telematics, powertrain and chassis controls, sensors and interior electronics) into its portfolio.

The new telematics business unit of Continental is based in Deer Park, IL, in suburban Chicago, same as when it was part of Motorola. The headquarters and development center will remain there, says President Karl-Thomas Neumann, also a member of the executive board of Continental AG.

“We are committed to Chicago — it is our global headquarters for telematics,” he says. “We have the best people there.”

But in metro Detroit, where Motorola opened an automotive development center in Farmington Hills in 2002, Neumann says it makes little sense to isolate the former Motorola staffers from Continental's North American headquarters in nearby Auburn Hills.

“In Detroit, we will consolidate,” he says. “We will go to a more central place. We want to put everything together into one place.”

By mid-summer, the supplier says it plans to move 140 workers from the former Motorola facility in Farmington Hills to Auburn Hills to improve communication with the new employees and to unite the two organizations. Neumann says no job reductions are expected.

Meanwhile, Motorola's Detroit Applications and Systems Engineering Center in Dearborn, MI, now part of Continental, will remain in its current location and will be renovated; moving emissions testing cells would be cost prohibitive, the company says.

Motorola opened the Dearborn facility in 1987 to support sales of its engine controllers to Ford Motor Co. For the past decade, the engineering center has served multiple customers.

The Deer Park telematics business unit will continue to house portions of the Powertrain and Chassis Business Unit and focus on automotive sensors and body electronics, as well.

Continental announced in February it was hiring 50 additional software engineers at Deer Park as part of the company's global engineering initiative.

Neumann says the Deer Park facility represents Continental's only business unit that is not based in Germany. “But that's the future,” he says. “I want more business units to be headquartered globally because that is my way to make this a global company. It's a very important step.”

Continental is investing heavily in the former Motorola telematics operations in Europe and Asia, including two new development centers in Shanghai, but Neumann says additional investments in North America are cautiously on hold because the market “is really low.”