Johnson Controls Inc. and minority-owned automotive supplier Plastech Engineered Products Inc. plan to open two new plants jointly, to make plastic headliners and overhead systems for Ford Motor Co.
The suppliers have created a new company, called TrimQuest LLC, that will mold and assemble interior-roof systems for several Ford vehicles.
Dearborn, Mich.-based Plastech owns 51 percent of the venture. The remainder is held by JCI, working from its automotive headquarters in Plymouth, Mich. The move was announced March 23, and operations are scheduled to begin in May.
The sales volume for the new, multiyear Ford contracts was not revealed. However, initial contracts will be worth between $100 million and $500 million, said JCI spokesman David Roznowski.
The new plants initially will be able to make more than 800,000 headliners and overhead systems annually, said Mike Melinn, TrimQuest vice president and general manager.
Overhead systems typically include a headliner, sun visors, grab handles, map lighting and console, Roznowski said.
TrimQuest will open a 105,000-square-foot plant in Walker, Mich., in May, Melinn said. The facility will thermoform headliners made from fiberglass-reinforced polyurethane and assemble them with other overhead features, Melinn said. TrimQuest will start by making headliners and overhead systems for the 1999-model Ford Crown Victoria sedan. By August, the new plants also will supply parts for Ford's 1999 Econoline van, F-series pickup trucks and the Mercury Grand Marquis car and Villager minivan.
Plant investment and the number of thermoforming lines at the facility were not disclosed. TrimQuest's offices also will be housed at the Walker plant. The facility will have about 145 hourly and salaried employees.
The company plans to open a second plant in Ohio by August for assembly work, Melinn said. It still is negotiating details on a potential site. The plant is expected to be about 50,000 square feet and employ more than 50.
As the contracts roll out, TrimQuest plans to employ more than 300 at the two facilities, Roznowski said.
The venture joins JCI — one of the world's largest interior-systems suppliers — with one of the industry's largest minority-owned suppliers. Plastech, a supplier to both JCI and Ford, is owned by Julie Brown, a Vietnamese immigrant who founded the company in 1988.
The venture is partly a response to carmakers' calls to boost minority parts sourcing. Ford has asked its Tier 1 suppliers to provide at least 5 percent of their assembled parts from minority companies, said Dearborn-based Ford spokesman Ron Iori.
``There's a business reason for this,'' Iori said. ``We go in and sell cars and trucks to minority communities. We think it makes a lot of sense to do business with those same communities.''
Last year Ford sourced about $2.45 billion in components, or about 5 percent of its purchases, from minority-owned companies, Iori said.
JCI already buys close to 10 percent of its parts from minority-owned companies, Roznowski said. The supplier has several other joint ventures with minority-owned businesses.
Plastech injection molds interior and exterior components and stamps metal parts at 16 plants. The company recorded 1998 sales of more than $400 million, according to a news release. Plastech officials were unavailable for comment.
For the joint venture, Plastech will mold some of the overhead-system parts, and JCI will assemble map lighting and visors, according to Melinn. TrimQuest then will thermoform the headliners and integrate those parts into the headliners.
``It's a unique partnership,'' said Melinn, who had worked at JCI's Holland, Mich., interior-systems center. ``A family-owned precision molder is linking arms with a huge powerhouse in the industry. JCI can take advantage of Plastech's molding expertise and help them grow.''
JCI recorded $9.3 billion in sales for the 1998 fiscal year and has products on more than 22 million vehicles.
The move puts Plastech into a new product arena, that of headliners.
Ford encourages joint ventures between large suppliers and minority firms to help the smaller companies gain financial strength and new products, Iori said.