GT Products Inc., the developers of a plastic vapor-recovery valve that is becoming an automotive industry standard, has been acquired by Eaton Corp.
GT, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has grown at about a 40 percent rate the past two years, said President Jay Hartford. The firm's rise partly was driven by a patented plastic valve that the federal government is mandating for every North American car and truck.
That, and GT's lineup of other fuel-system and rollover valves, attracted the attention of Cleveland-based Eaton, a global supplier of emission-control valve products. The purchase, for an undisclosed price, was final Feb. 16.
``A lot of folks were contacting us [to sell the company],'' said Hartford, part of a group that bought the GT plant from Chrysler Corp. in 1982. ``We needed a partner to grow for the globalization downstream. We have significant opportunities with Eaton, and the future shows great promise.''
GT, which employs 500, operates from a 127,000-square-foot plant that includes assembly and a product testing area. Unlike Eaton, which injection molds its own emission-control valves, GT purchases its molded nylon and acetal parts from subcontractors.
The firm has developed an on-board refueling vapor recovery valve, or ORVR, designed to prevent fuel leakage in a rollover accident. The ORVR system, consisting of a series of plastic valves and sensors, draws fuel vapors into a vehicle's emission-control canister before they are dispersed to the engine for combustion.
Eaton makes other emission-control valves that force the vapors into the engine's combustion chamber, said Glenn Gouldey, general manager of Eaton's actuator and sensor division in Rochester Hills, Mich.
GT's five-story plant is operating near capacity, Hartford said. The firm recorded $53 million in 1997 sales and expects to boost that to $83 million this year.
Currently, GT is the sole supplier of ORVR valves to General Motors Corp. and works extensively with the other Big Three carmakers and several Tier 1 suppliers. It also makes plastic valves that protect occupants in a rollover accident by preventing fuel from moving forward in a vehicle.
Eaton makes its plastic emission-control valves at plants in Rochester Hills, Hamilton, Ind., and Rochelle, Ill. The Rochelle plant, which conducts Eaton's valve molding, has 18 presses with clamping forces of 50-400 tons.
Eaton, which has $7.6 billion in 1997 sales, employs about 2,000 in its actuator and sensor division, which makes the valves.