Guardian Automotive Products Group has continued its rapid ascent into plastic exterior trim by purchasing Spanish molder Lab Radio SA.
Guardian bought more than 70 percent of the Valencia, Spain-based firm on Dec. 30, said Guardian President Jack Sights. The purchase price was not disclosed.
The Spanish company is a midsize supplier of exterior trim parts, including body side moldings and plastic wheel covers, for the European market. The supplier, which operates more than 60 injection presses at its Valencia plant, recorded about $85 million in 1997 sales, said Lab Radio Chairman Augustin Escandon.
Guardian, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., is one of North America's largest makers of vehicle glass. However, the company steadily has expanded its stake in plastic trim through acquisitions and new plants since 1996. Its six existing trim plants are in the United States.
The firm is the only auto supplier to produce both exterior glass and trim parts, Sights said. It eventually plans to integrate window systems with surrounding windshield moldings, he said.
The acquisition gives Guardian new technology in the custom compounding of polyethylene and polypropylene composites and a state-of-the-art plastic paint system, Sights said.
The Valencia company also is a major European supplier of plastic hubcaps made with nylon or glass-filled PP.
``We're already shipping [trim parts] to Europe, so the timing of this [deal] is good,'' Sights said.
Lab Radio makes about 7 million wheel covers a year, said Kevin Mann, director of consulting group CSM Europe Ltd. in Surrey, England. Mann classified the company as a midlevel trim supplier.
``Our customers demand for us to take positions in different parts of the world,'' Escandon said. ``To continue investing in other countries and in Europe, we needed capital and the management to support that. Now, we can become a true multinational company.''
The plant's customers include General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.'s European facilities, Audi AG and Volkswagen AG.
The company, which has 550 employees, operates a 1.1 million-square-foot plant that includes areas for toolmaking, injection molding, painting, assembly and design. The site also includes a 56,000-square-foot warehouse.
The plant, which molds parts from more than 20 engineered thermoplastics, uses 34 large injection presses with clamping forces as high as 1,500 tons and 30 smaller presses ranging from 50-300 tons, Escandon said.
In 1996, Guardian bought a 70 percent interest in Automotive Moulding Co. of Warren, Mich., in a deal worth more than $125 million that included five plants.
The company, a unit of Auburn Hills-based Guardian Industries Corp., also invested $44 million in a new trim facility in Morehead, Ky. The 300,000-square-foot plant opened in late December.
Guardian is ranked 16th on Plastics News' list of North American injection molders, with $200 million in relevant sales during 1996.
The privately held firm recorded about $800 million in automotive sales last year, Sights said.