Inoac Corp. has changed partners for its automotive instrument panel and interior components joint venture. The Nagoya, Japan, firm agreed to team up with Johnson Controls Inc. as it dissolves its 11-year partnership with Woodbridge Group. The 50-50 JCI/Inoac joint venture, named Intertec Systems LLP, was scheduled to take effect March 1.
``We tried to look for a very strong and equal partner, and that is why we went to Johnson Controls,'' Fumio Kohri, president of Inoac USA Inc. and the former Woodbridge Inoac Inc. venture, said in a Feb. 26 interview at the SAE International Congress and Exposition in Detroit.
The Intertec venture expands JCI's automotive interior business, which lacked instrument panel production. JCI claimed in a Feb. 22 news release that its Plymouth, Mich., Automotive Systems Group is the world's largest supplier of automotive seating and headliners and a major in other interior components.
Woodbridge started to lose interest in the instrument panel business and Inoac took on more of the venture's financial management, Kohri said by telephone before his appearance at SAE.
``Woodbridge would like to concentrate on seating, which is their specialty,'' Kohri said from the joint venture's Troy, Mich.-based head office.
Intertec's vice president of sales and technical services, Ronald Carzoli, said the joint venture focuses on cosmetic parts
parts, while Woodbridge's automotive strength is ``behind the scenes'' materials such as seating foams.
Woodbridge essentially has had no involvement in the joint venture for more than four years, according to Neil De Koker, Woodbridge's senior vice president, commercial.
Woodbridge allowed its name to remain on the joint venture because of its goodwill value and continued to rent some office space to the venture, but allocated little staff time to it, De Koker said.
Woodbridge entered the Inoac joint venture in 1985 with the aim of being a full interior systems supplier. Several years ago it decided to focus on being a Tier 2 supplier of converted urethane foam - its real area of expertise, De Koker said - and the Inoac joint venture was not part of the strategy.
He said his company maintains ``friendly'' supplier relations with Inoac, JCI and other Tier 1 companies.
Privately held Woodbridge, based in Mississauga, Ontario, has annual sales of about C$850 million (US$620.5 million), De Koker said.
Intertec will inherit three facilities operated by Woodbridge Inoac.
The Troy facility will continue to run sales, marketing and administrative operations. Pro-duction plants in Bardstown, Ky., and St. Mary's, Ontario, will make instrument panels for Mitsubishi Motors America Inc., Chrysler Corp., General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc.
The facilities also will produce passenger-side airbag doors for Ford Motor Co. and Fiat and interior door panels for Chrysler vehicles.
JCI spokesman Jeff Steiner said his firm brings to Intertec its just-in-time manufacturing and distribution experience and its interior design and styling expertise.
Inoac's instrument panel technology includes powder slush-skin molding of vinyl, ABS and other resins into complex shapes, and polyurethane foam molding. The partners will slush-skin mold vinyl and vacuum form PVC/ABS sheet.
Steiner said Intertec has no immediate expansion plans but will add another plant if sales growth demands it.
Officials predict Intertec's 1996 sales will be about $100 million, similar to what Woodbridge Inoac booked last year.
Carzoli said the venture will be the second-largest independent instrument panel supplier in North America, after the Davidson Instrument Panel division of Textron Automotive Co.
Officials said JCI and Inoac will cooperate worldwide and share technology.
Intertec is the latest JCI move in global auto interior markets. Late last year it bought 75 percent of seat and interior trim maker Roth Freres SA of Strasbourg, France. JCI's Automotive Systems Group's 111 facilities worldwide had sales of $3.8 billion last year. JCI, based in Milwaukee, had total sales of $8.3 billion.
Steiner predicts JCI's auto group will supply seats for 9.3 million vehicles this year.
Inoac, a $2 billion-per-year firm, claimed to be the biggest independent instrument panel supplier in Japan.
The company's four major business groups in polyurethanes, plastics, rubber and composites have 14 facilities in North America and more than 100 around the world.
Kohri and De Koker said Inoac and Woodbridge will continue with a small joint venture in Chattanooga, Tenn., that makes foamed health-care, industrial and auto products. An Inoac joint venture for interior trim, Sommer Allibert SA near Spartanburg, S.C., is unaffected by Intertec's formation, according to Carzoli.
Steiner said his firm has been negotiating with Inoac for as long as a year. In July, Woodbridge Inoac announced a management shakeup that included Kohri replacing Leonard Griffin as president. Griffin joined Key Plastics Inc. of Livonia, Mich., as president and chief operating officer. Griffin did not return phone calls to comment on his former company.