DETROIT — Lear Corp. hopes to use its planned acquisition of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s plastic instrument panel business to cross-pollinate its technology with a European company Lear acquired last year.
But the giant automotive-interiors supplier has yet to obtain a letter of intent to acquire the business and Goodyear's Logan, Ohio, plant, said Ken Way, Lear's chairman and chief executive officer. He made his comments after the company's recent annual shareholders' meeting in Novi, Mich.
Way said Goodyear's instrument panel technology would be used to cross-pollinate the technology of Borealis Industrier, which Lear acquired in December. The company is a leading provider of instrument panels to the Scandinavian market and is expected to expand Lear's growth by $4 billion.
Way's comments were the first acknowledgement that Lear is negotiating to acquire Goodyear's automotive instrument panel business. Legal issues still must be resolved, Way said, but he did not elaborate.
Officials with Local 744 of the United Steelworkers Union in Logan had said the deal could have closed as early as late April.
The plant Lear hopes to acquire is a 334,000-square-foot operation that makes instrument panels for Ford Motor Co.'s Taurus and Mercury Sable and for General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile Cutlass and Chevrolet Malibu. The plant has 560 hourly and salaried employees.
The instrument panel business is one of five product groups Lear is building as part of its global growth strategy as a full automotive systems integrator. Way told shareholders Lear is well into that mission with $1.6 billion in new business booked through 2001.
Net sales for the company last year totaled $6.2 billion, a 33 percent gain over the previous year.
Lear has seen five-year sales growth of 36 percent in North America, with a business backlog of $800 million, Way said.
Lear's sales in South America jumped to $156 million last year, from $2.6 million the previous year. European sales grew by 61 percent in the past five years, and the business backlog there is $550 million, Way said.
Asia remains the firm's smallest market so far, with sales last year of $69.6 million. He put the business backlog for the region at $100 million.