Magna International Inc. is trying to buy major seating capability in Europe this year. The Canadian company has a $440 million war chest and a two-year, $2 billion spending plan for Europe, according to Magna President Don Walker.
Ford Motor Co. has invited Magna and Lear to make proposals for the supply of complete interiors to the CDW132 car, the 2001 replacement for the Ford Mondeo, according to an industry insider. Lear is well-established in Europe through its Lear Seating GmbH & Co. subsidiary. Magna has about a year to find seating capacity if it is to win the Ford contract, the source said.
Seating is ``a high priority,'' Frank Orr, vice president for corporate development, said in a telephone interview from Magna's Markham, Ontario, headquarters. ``We're working pretty hard at it, and we're hopeful something will materialize in the short- to medium-term. But you just don't know.''
He would not discuss any contracts or acquisition targets. He did say Magna wants to be big enough to bid for major contracts.
Magna this year has acquired Britain's Marley Automotive Components Ltd. and German parts maker Pebra GmbH Paul Braun. It started its own $20 million stamping plant on the Czech Republic-Austrian border.
European sales were $146 million in 1992, $880 million in 1995.
Bertrand Faure, the independent French seating supplier with $2.2 billion in European sales, may be the most likely candidate for a relationship with Magna. Bertrand Faure is the third-largest seating supplier in Europe, as Magna is in North America. Michel Thierry Auto SA, a fabric supplier, is a significant shareholder in Bertrand Faure since a failed takeover attempt several years ago, and sources said that holding may be in play.
The only other independent seating candidate is Keiper Recaro GmbH & Co., a privately held German firm with luxury customers.
Ford builds seats for the Mondeo in Europe, and Douglas & Lomason builds them in North America. Douglas & Lomason has a joint venture with Keiper Recaro, but the companies are not big enough to supply complete interiors to the global Mondeo program, as Ford wants. Last year, Ford build 599,964 units of the Mondeo.