DETROIT - Lear Corp. is plugging the last gap in its lineup of products for vehicle interiors: instrument panels. The seatmaker has announced it will purchase Borealis Industrier AB, a manufacturer of instrument panels based in Gothenburg, Sweden.
This year, Borealis Industrier's sales are expected to total $260 million. With five plants and 1,800 employees in Sweden, the company is a major supplier to Volvo, Scania and Saab.
That could provide a good opportunity for Lear, based in Southfield, Mich., to design entire car interiors for AB Volvo and Saab Automobile AB, which already buy seats from Lear.
Lear spokeswoman Leslie Touma called the purchase ``an initial step'' in the company's effort to design entire interiors worldwide for the auto industry. Lear already has the capacity to produce door panels, headliners, seats and floor systems.
Lear took a major step along that path last year when it bought Automotive Industries Inc., a plastics components supplier in Rochester Hills, Mich.
Borealis also makes a wide range of products, which include instrument panels, door panels, climate systems and exterior trim. The company specializes in polyethylene and polypropylene, raw materials that are relatively cheap and easy to recycle.
Recently, Borealis had begun to seek customers outside Sweden. The company makes plastic components for Hyundai Motor Co., and operates a sales office in Germany.
Borealis also has been expanding its production capacity. Last year, Borealis doubled its expenditures on new plant equipment to $15 million.
The acquisition sharpens the race among Lear and its competitors to produce entire interior systems. Both Johnson Controls Inc. and Magna International Inc. have acquired smaller suppliers to do so.