Johnson Controls Inc. is buying a 75 percent interest in French seat and interior automotive trim maker Roth Freres SA for $175 million to $200 million. The sellers are members of the Roth family. A definitive agreement calling for the acquisition has been reached but the method of payment has not been determined, Johnson Controls said.
Roth Freres, based in Strasbourg, expects sales this year of $600 million, according to Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls. The French company has two plants producing foam cushions, headrests, headliners, door trim and shelves. It supplies seats to Renault, Peugeot, Mitsubishi and Volvo in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The French company will become a part of Johnson Controls' Automotive Systems Group.
Johnson Controls is publicly owned and, with 92 plants, is one of the largest independent producers of auto seating in North America.
Since 1988, the two companies have been associated in joint ventures in the United States and Europe that now have annual sales of about $375 million, according to JCI.
Johnson Controls said with the acquisition it gains a stronger foothold in the European market, expands its customer base, increases its range of automotive interior products and gains access to new markets in France and elsewhere around the globe. JCI said that after the move it will be one of the largest suppliers of headliners with annual production of about 5 million units. Headliners are the interior lining of a vehicle's roof.
Car and truck builders in recent years increasingly have been opting to discontinue seat design and production and have been turning the work over to suppliers like JCI, Lear Seating Corp., Findlay Industries and Douglas & Lomason Co. For those companies, expansion has been rapid and far-flung. Just last month, for example, Johnson Controls said as a result of increased business with Ford Motor Co. it soon will begin to produce truck seats at such widespread points as Oberlin, Ohio, and Escobar, Argentina.
Another major trend has seat makers expanding the reach of their product lines to include other interior components like trim and panels.