Ford Motor Co. has confirmed it will kick Visteon Automotive Systems out of the corporate nest this year in a move that could widen market opportunities for the auto-parts producer and its suppliers. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker isn't commenting beyond a Jan. 14 statement that it plans to "achieve independence" for Visteon sometime in 2000.
"We're not saying anything over and above that," said Ford spokesman Jim Cain.
Visteon, likewise, is mum on its future.
"We're working through everything," said spokeswoman Cheryl Eberwein. "We expect an answer sometime later this year."
Ford previously had talked of spinning off Visteon, but had not set a deadline for the move.
Visteon, also based in Dearborn, already set a target to record more than 20 percent of non-Ford business worldwide before a split.
The unit bought the automotive interiors operations of Cie. Plastic Omnium SA in May, promoting itself to the top-selling producer in Europe of injection molded instrument panels. It had occupied fourth place.
But the silence from Ford and Visteon isn't panicking suppliers, who already went through a similar switch when General Motors Corp. spun off its Delphi division to create Delphi Automotive Systems last year.
"From our standpoint, it's fine," said Michael Honigfort, vice president for product, design and methods engineering for St. Louis-based Siegel-Robert Inc.'s Automotive and Diversified Products.
"I would expect that our relationship will continue to grow with Visteon and Ford," he said.
Siegel-Robert produces plated exterior trim pieces for Ford. And success for Visteon could mean more business will filter down to suppliers, he noted.
"This is going to create more opportunities for everyone," added Tim Scollin, vice president of sales for Injectronics Inc., a molder of interior trim and under-the-hood plastic parts for Ford and Visteon.
Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning already has created individual accounts for Ford and Visteon, said William Mellian, Ford global account manager based in Canton, Mich., for Owens Corning's composites systems business.
"We've been treating Visteon as a separate business in preparation [for the division]," he said.
Independence will allow Visteon more opportunities to bid on business for Ford's competitors, just as Delphi Automotive tapped into a wider market after it split from GM, Honigfort noted.
Delphi Automotive announced Jan. 19 it has increased its non-GM business by nearly 12 percent since it separated from its parent company. The auto-parts producer, based in Troy, Mich., posted nearly $6.9 billion in sales outside GM in 1999, compared with $6.2 billion in 1998. It has contracts to produce modular door systems for DaimlerChrysler and electrical units for Ford, in addition to a variety of other projects under development, Delphi announced. In all, it has 600 contracts with 30 different customers.
Total sales for the year hit $29.2 billion, up from $28.5 billion in 1998.
"You'd think it would all work out to be just like Delphi," Honigfort said.