KEY PLASTICS TO ACQUIRE 3 AEROQUIP TRIM PLANTS

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Key Plastics Inc. plans to boost its auto interior components business by acquiring three plants from Aeroquip Corp.

The Novi, Mich., firm agreed to pay an undisclosed amount for Aeroquip facilities in Port Huron and Chesterfield, Mich., and Chihuahua, Mexico. Trinova Corp., Aeroquip's parent, said in February that it will exit auto interior trim markets by selling eight plants.

Joe Buzzitta, Key's director of sales and marketing, said the three plants make similar products to some Key facilities and ``they fit our growth plans.''

The Aeroquip units mold display products, instrument clusters and radio bezel assemblies for cars, light trucks and vans. Trinova spokesman Peter Parsons said in a telephone interview that they did $30 million in sales last year, selling directly to a variety automakers in North America.

Len Griffin, Key's president and chief operating officer, said in a March 7 news release that the purchase will increase capacity for decorative bezels and expand Key's capacity in the growing Mexican market. Key also has a plant in Chihuahua, which Parsons said will remain open because Key needs the capacity.

Port Huron is a 52,000-square-foot operation with 26 injection

presses with 55-500 tons of clamping force. Aeroquip's Chihuahua plant has similar floor space and 17 presses with clamping forces of 75-500 tons. Chesterfield has two paint lines and two automated assembly lines in 44,000 square feet. The operations employ about 550.

Buzzitta does not think Key is interested in other Aeroquip plants for sale in Mooresville, N.C.; Kendallville, Ind.; Spring Arbor, Mich., and Roedelheim and Beienheim, Germany. Parsons said Trinova continues to seek buyers for the remaining facilities but he would not identify which companies are looking at them.

Trinova of Maumee, Ohio, decided to sell the interior operations rather than make heavy investments needed to compete and regain sales volumes being captured by Tier 1 suppliers. Aeroquip will keep its fluid connectors business.

Trinova expects to finalize the sale to Key by the end of March.

Key reported injection molding sales of $207 million in 1996. It has been expanding by acquisition. Last year it bought Automatic Technologies Inc. of South Bend, Ind., a stake in auto molder Materias Plasticas SA of Leiria, Portugal, and it acquired Clearplas Ltd. an auto molder in Coventry, England,

Aeroquip of Maumee, Ohio, had injection molding sales of $104.6 million in 1995, down from $158.3 million in the previous year.