The redesign of Saturn's 1997 coupe has forced one of the company's original suppliers to close a plant. Donnelly Corp. will leave its Mount Pleasant, Tenn., window-module factory in the next few months, as Saturn's business goes to Donnelly's former partner, AP Tenntech Corp.
The Mount Pleasant operation, called D&A Technology Inc. until a year ago, was a 60-40 joint venture between Donnelly and AP Tenntech Corp., a U.S. subsidiary of Asahi Glass Co.
Asahi pulled out of the venture last year when the window module was designed out of the new-generation 1996 Saturn sedan. At that time, the operation's name changed to Donnelly Corp.
The Saturn coupe will drop the unit when the 1997 model enters production this summer.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Saturn groomed parts suppliers who were willing to build dedicated lines for Saturn production. Saturn in return assured suppliers that it wanted to develop long-term relationships with them. A Saturn spokesman said the business switch was simply a matter of a vehicle redesign.
Donnelly provided the injection molding that encapsulated rear quarter windows in rubber weatherstripping. Under the new arrangement, AP Tenntech will use a more traditional gluing method to attach stripping.
The Donnelly venture was located in AP Tenntech's own Mount Pleasant factory, where that company assembled the window units. A firewall separated the two corporate entities.
Over the past year, as the Saturn business drew to a close, Donnelly had developed some new business for the plant, including work on sunroofs for other suppliers.
The operation also had hoped to move other Donnelly business down from Donnelly plants in Michigan. But that plan did not materialize.
A Donnelly spokesman said that the closing would affect 95 employees. Some will move to Donnelly, some to AP Tenntech.