Machinery maker Milacron Inc. said new orders for its key North American plastics market - and to the automotive sector - both grew a solid 20 percent in the first quarter of 2005.
Milacron also reported some major orders, including one to a Japanese transplant car maker in the United States.
Ronald Brown, chairman, president and chief executive officer, called automotive ``one of the strongest end markets for us right now,'' during a conference call May 5.
``The orders we're getting are not based upon added capacity or production. ... There's a number of design changes, to take weight and costs out of the products,'' Brown said. ``And new plastics designs are the way to do that.''
Sales to molders of aftermarket parts also are strong.
One financial analyst asked about ``automotive angst,'' but Brown said: ``We're not seeing any indications of weakness to the automotive buying sector.''
Companywide, Cincinnati-based Milacron reported first-quarter sales of $192 million, up $3 million from a year ago.
It lost $9.1 million, an improvement over the year-earlier loss of $16.6 million, and Brown said executives expect Milacron will return to profitability in the second half.
New orders hit $202 million, the highest level in four years.
First-quarter machinery sales in North America rose 13 percent, to $87 million from $77 million a year ago. New orders grew 20 percent, to $95 million.
U.S. capacity utilization for plastics and rubber processors has stayed above 84 percent the entire first three months of 2005 - the magic number that Milacron says sparks broader equipment buying.
Brown told analysts about several sales, although he did not identify the customers. ``In the first quarter we also got a large order for injection molding machinery from a Japanese automotive manufacturer located in the U.S.,'' he said.
Milacron is winning business based on innovations and strong service, not because it has the lowest price, he said. ``We recently landed a nice multinational order because we have both injection and blow molding technology, which are required to manufacture this particular customer's product,'' he said. Brown also mentioned a sale to a customer that makes blow molded headrests.