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Denso to bolster automotive molding at Mich. site

By: Rhoda Miel

January 24, 2013

DETROIT -- Denso Corp. will invest $105 million in new production at its Battle Creek, Mich., plant -- a site that include in-house molding for automotive engine thermal products.

The project is part of a nearly $1 billion investment by the company in North America, first announced Jan. 15 during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Battle Creek plant was the first one Kariya, Japan-based Denso opened in North America, launched in 1984 with 50 employees.

The site, known as Denso Manufacturing Michigan Inc., will receive funds for new manufacturing capabilities in advanced thermal management products including new lines for radiator and condenser products. Denso plans to add 266 jobs, including 46 managerial and skilled-trade positions and 220 manufacturing posts to support the manufacturing activity.

Denso's in-house plastics operation in Battle Creek makes tanks for radiators, cases for heating and air conditioning units, blower fans and fans for radiators and condensers. The company has not provided any specifics for new equipment for plastics at the plant.

In addition to the Battle Creek production site, the company will add 176 jobs at its Southfield, Mich., technical offices and North American headquarters.

Overall, the company expects to invest more than $750 million in the U.S. during the next four years, as well as $120 million in improvements in Mexico and Canada.

In Tennessee, the company expects to invest $50 million at its plants in Athens and Maryville, said Terry Helgesen, senior vice president industry relations, during a Denso press conference at the auto show. Other investments are set for Denso sites in Iowa, North Carolina and California.

"You know, just a couple of years ago we were seeing capacity being taken out of North America," Helgesen said. "But now, capacity is coming back and both automakers and suppliers are increasing production."

It is important for Denso to have technical capabilities in every market, he said, and capital expenditures in the North American market will ensure the company can continue to compete across its product portfolio.

"We've invested in expanding regions like China, India and Brazil," he said. "We're also seeing growth in mature markets like North America. Last year, we talked about how important it is for Denso's survival as a global company to do [research and development] around the world."

Denso will also look to make the "lion's share" of its production equipment in North America, rather than importing it from Japan, said Jack Helmboldt, corporate senior director and executive vice president for Denso Manufacturing Tennessee.