Lear Corp. may be seeking another owner for its plastics-heavy auto interiors unit, but company officials pledge to continue investing in the business.
The Southfield, Mich.-based auto supplier is in talks with New York financier Wilbur Ross to combine its interiors group - which includes instrument panels, door panels, center consoles and other plastic trim - with the holdings of bankrupt supplier Collins & Aikman Corp. to create a new joint venture business.
Ross already has purchased C&A's European operations for the new International Automotive Components LLC and has reached an agreement to fold Lear's European interiors into the firm. Lear will own a 34 percent stake in the European side of IAC, as part of its agreement with Ross, and an equity stake in any expansion of that business into North America.
That stake will keep Lear investing in its plastics operations, President and Chief Operating Officer Doug DelGrosso said during an April 3 interview at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2006 World Congress in Detroit.
``It's in our best interest to make sure we're investing in cutting-edge products,'' he said.
DelGrosso cited Lear's investments in two-shot injection molding and a spray polyurethane skin used on instrument panels as keys to providing levels of manufacturing craftsmanship that carmakers and car buyers want.
Lear and Ross announced a plan in October to buy up Troy, Mich.-based C&A's operations from bankruptcy court and fold them into Lear's plastics business. The plan is taking longer to launch than expected because of the time required to go through the bankruptcy proceedings, but talks are continuing, DelGrosso said.