DETROIT - Navistar International Transportation Corp., preparing for a downturn in the market for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, said it is looking at the possible sale of its Columbus, Ohio, compression molding plant. But Chicago-based Navistar, rather than cutting back pro-duction of plastic components, said it also is looking at other options to increase capacity at its Columbus Plastics Operations, said spokeswoman Deborah Spak.
The truck manufacturer may decide to run the facility in partnership with another firm or invest in an expansion.
``This is just part of our plan to revise our overall manufacturing strategy,'' Spak said.
A source familiar with the Navistar molding operation, who declined to be identified by name, said Budd Co. of Troy, Mich., and Cambridge Industries Inc., of Madison Heights, Mich., recently sent representatives to inspect the plant. Ashland Chemical Co., a supplier of sheet molding compound to Navistar, also took part in the Columbus plant inspection. Officials of Budd Co. and Cambridge Industries declined to comment.
Navistar builds medium- and heavy-duty trucks, school bus chassis and mid-range diesel engines.
The Columbus plant, employing about 350, supplies large SMC parts, such as fenders, hoods and cowls, for Navistar assembly operations in Springfield, Ohio, and Chatham, Ontario. Most of the production at Columbus goes to Springfield.
The Columbus plant also does custom molding for other manufacturers. It supplies, for example, parts for the Yamaha Wave Runner watercraft.
Another source knowledgeable about the Columbus operations, who also declined to be identified by name, said that the molding facility is profitable.
The plant, equipped with the latest technology, could expand its non-Navistar business, but the company is concerned about constraining its ability to produce parts for its own trucks, the source said.
Heavy-duty truck makers had a record year in 1995, selling 201,304 trucks, an increase of 8 percent.
But Navistar, No. 2 in market share behind Freightliner Corp., is projecting sales to decline this year to 175,000 trucks. As a result, Navistar plans to cut daily production at its Chatham plant on Jan. 29. About 490 of the current 2,100 employees at the plant will be laid off, according to Spak. Additional layoffs are possible at the Springfield plant, she said.
Ralph Kisiel of Automotive News contributed to this story.