DETROIT - A sole-source supplier of molded bumper covers to General Motors Corp., facing what it calls certain liquidation, is asking a federal bankruptcy judge to approve an emergency takeover by another GM supplier. AutoStyle Plastics Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich., said that if the court does not approve the last-minute acquisition plan, the company may shut down immediately and cause a ``wholesale disruption'' of luxury-car assembly operations at GM and production at other automakers. Addi-tionally, 950 jobs are at risk.
GM, however, is confident that it can maintain a continued supply of the bumper parts ``under several different scenarios'' aimed at keeping production running, according to spokesman Thomas Klipstine.
The automaker, which has been following the AutoStyle situation closely, has ``gone to great lengths'' to make sure that a shutdown of assembly operations would not occur, he said.
AutoStyle filed for protection from creditors June 3 under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in Grand Rapids. At the same time, AutoStyle also asked the court to approve a last-minute takeover proposal from Venture Industries Corp. of Fraser, Mich., another supplier of automotive plastics.
GM already has awarded Venture a supply contract for the parts AutoStyle is producing, said James Butler, Venture's vice president of finance. The automaker ``made it possible for all of us to accomplish this,'' he said.
A group of AutoStyle's largest creditors met June 4 in Detroit and viewed the proposed Venture acquisition of AutoStyle as ``very positive,'' Butler said.
GM is also confident that the Venture acquisition of AutoStyle will be approved, Klipstine said.
``We remain fairly optimistic. Everybody is working together,'' Klipstine said.
AutoStyle supplies parts to GM's Cadillac/Luxury Car Division plants in Hamtramck and Flint, Mich., where Cadillacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles are assembled. AutoStyle is the only supplier for some parts on all of the vehicles built at the two plants.
In court documents, AutoStyle said it is a sole supplier of bumper covers, or fascias, for several vehicles manufactured by GM and other automakers. AutoStyle said its customers are threatening to cancel supply contracts, remove production tooling and award the business to competing suppliers if the Venture takeover plan is not approved immediately.
If GM and other automakers did pull the tooling, AutoStyle estimates that it would take as long as three weeks for new suppliers to resume production of bumper fascias, a move that would disrupt assembly operations. At GM, AutoStyle said, the shutdown of an assembly line would make it liable for damages of $9 million per day.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge JoAnn Stevenson scheduled a hearing June 6 in Grand Rapids to review the Venture takeover proposal.
The plan calls for Venture to lease AutoStyle's production facilities and other assets for two years at $500,000 per month. At the end of the two-year period, Venture will have the option to purchase AutoStyle's assets.
In addition, the plan calls for Venture to employ all of AutoStyle's 700 permanent and 250 temporary workers at two plants in Grand Rapids and another in Hopkinsville, Ky.
AutoStyle said its sales last year were in the range of $55 million to $60 million, down from a historic peak of $115 million. The company has been hurt badly by an industry shift from reaction injection molded polyurethane fascias, its longtime specialty, to injection molded thermoplastic fascias, which are cheaper and easier to recycle.
MascoTech Inc. of Taylor, Mich., owns 50 percent of AutoStyle, said William Pries, AutoStyle's vice president of human resources.
Venture, which has seven North American plants and one in Australia, employs 2,200 and had sales of $250 million last year. It produces a variety of injection molded parts, including bumper fascias, air bag covers, body side moldings, instrument panels and consoles. The company has the capability to do RIM parts, but currently is not using its production equipment.
Venture's largest customer is GM, with about 45 percent of sales, followed by Chrysler Corp., with about 30 percent.
Butler said Venture was talking with Chrysler about picking up some business that AutoStyle supplies indirectly through another supplier. So far, however, Chrysler has not awarded the business to Venture, Butler said.