DETROIT - Lear Corp. took a large step toward its goal of being a complete automotive interior supplier recently when it an-nounced it will buy Masland Corp. Now Southfield, Mich.-based Lear is in the market for an instrument panel business.
Lear will buy 14.8 million outstanding shares of Masland Corp. for $26 a share, or $384 million. Lear also will assume Masland's $50 million debt.
Masland makes floor systems, acoustical products and luggage compartment trim. The deal strengthens Lear's status as the leading supplier of complete automotive interiors, a $40 billion industry.
``We want to be the auto industry's one-stop shop for interiors,'' said Lear Chairman Ken Way. ``We are the strongest company in that market, that's for sure.''
Before the acquisition, Lear could supply three of the five major groups of interior components: door trim, seats, consoles and headliners.
The Masland acquisition gives Lear its fourth: floor systems, which include carpeting, floor mats and other trim.
Now Lear seeks the final piece of the one-stop shop puzzle: instrument panels. To get that piece, Way said Lear will seek a merger, joint venture or some other strategic alliance.
Masland has a strong presence in North America, but not overseas. Last year, customers in the United States and Canada accounted for 90 percent of its sales, with the rest in Latin America.
Lear will expand Masland's business by selling carpeting to its own European customers, which include BMW, Volkswagen, Fiat, Saab, Jaguar, Opel and Ford.
At a recent press conference, Way said he does not anticipate any layoffs or plant closings at Masland.
``Lear is a growth company,'' Way said. ``In any acquisition we've ever made, we created growth. We expect the same to happen with Masland.''
In 1995, Lear was the third-largest independent automotive supplier, with $3.4 billion in North American sales and $4.7 billion in worldwide sales. Masland Corp. was No. 62 in North American sales with $473 million, according to Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication to Plastics News.