Globally, Italian auto supplier Magneti Marelli SpA is a powerhouse, with nearly $4 billion in annual sales.
In North America, though, its operation is a far-smaller player, responsible for less than 7 percent of the firm's production and serving a few niche business areas. But the company now is out to boost both its production and profile in the region, with plans to expand its injection molding capabilities.
``We want to put our plans here on fast-forward,'' Philip Fioravante said in an Aug. 31 interview in Detroit. Fioravante is president and chief executive officer of Magneti Marelli Powertrain USA LLC, one of the Milan, Italy-based company's three North American units.
Magneti Marelli Powertrain has operated in the United States since the 1970s, and had in-house injection molding for throttle bodies at its Sanford, N.C., production base for about four years.
In the next three to five years, Fioravante aims to add another five presses to the existing fleet of four vertical injection molding machines and one horizontal press, and increase its overall sales on the continent to $200 million, from $120 million.
Magneti Marelli's U.S.-based holding company also includes an automotive lighting business and another specializing in suspensions and shock absorbers.
The North American powertrain unit does about 40 percent of its business directly to automakers, including DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler group, General Motors Corp. and Germany's BMW AG and Volkswagen AG.
The firm moved its headquarters from North Carolina to the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, Mich., earlier this year to improve its visibility with North American automakers. It also is in discussion with Asian automakers that make cars in the United States.
Another 40 percent of the business goes into motor sports, with parts going to motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc. and boat engine manufacturer Mercury Marine.
The remaining business is geared to the aftermarket performance-sports industry.
At its manufacturing base in North Carolina, the company has aluminum die-cast production, machining, injection molding and assembly.
To increase its presence during the coming years, Fioravante said the company is looking to sell more of its core products and develop in-house production of electronic throttle controls and air-intake manifolds - parts made by Magneti Marelli in Europe. Those systems will require the boost in injection molding capabilities, he said.
In addition, Fioravante said he is looking for opportunities to form alliances with innovative plastics companies that can add proprietary technologies to Magneti Marelli's customer reach, potentially improving sales for both businesses.
Magneti Marelli's competitors include Denso Corp., Visteon Corp., Robert Bosch GmbH, Siemens VDO Automotive and Delphi Corp.
``We can't match their size, so we are focused on more niche products,'' he said.