Meridian Automotive Systems Inc. has an agreement to buy Automotive Components Holdings LLC's Sandusky, Ohio, lighting plant, which would bring Meridian more lighting capability and a plant that now supplies 60 percent of Ford Motor Co. vehicles in North America.
If the deal announced June 12 is completed, Allen Park, Mich.-based Meridian will have greater ability to supply front-end modules, which have been a growing trend in the auto industry.
Meridian now makes rear lights, turn signals and fog lamps at its Grand Rapids, Mich., plant, but the Sandusky site - with injection molding, painting and assembly - will add headlights to the mix.
It also will boost Meridian's lighting sales to Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford. DaimlerChrysler Corp. is Meridian's biggest lighting customer currently, said Mark Decker, senior vice president of human resources.
``Acquiring the Sandusky ... facility is a logical extension of our engineering and manufacturing expertise,'' said Meridian President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Newsted in a news release. ``We are excited about the opportunity to improve the long-term competitive position of this operation and expanding our strengths and capabilities in lighting technology.''
The Sandusky plant was transferred to Ford-controlled ACH in 2005 from Visteon Corp., as part of a restructuring move. It is one of eight ACH plants now in negotiations for sale to other auto suppliers.
Neither ACH nor Meridian released information on the size of the Sandusky plant or the number of employees there, although Erie County, Ohio, officials estimate the site now employs about 1,200 in its lighting operations and in an emission control products line that is slated to close. Employment is down from 2005, when Sandusky had about 1,500 workers.
The deal is contingent on reaching a new agreement with the United Auto Workers union.
With headlight capability, Meridian could build more of a front-end module on its own, rather than buying from outside suppliers. The number of FEM parts varies, but could include everything between the bumper fascia and radiator at the front of the car. The modules are used extensively by automakers in Europe, and slowly have gained ground in North America.
Front-end module specialist Hella Behr Plastic Omnium, headquartered in Lippstadt, Germany, is opening three new front-end module assembly sites in North America this year. Meridian competitor Magna International Ltd. of Aurora, Ontario, added lighting to its capabilities in 2001 to bid for more module contracts.
``The [lighting] landscape is changing,'' Decker said. ``We're assuming there's gong to be further consolidation in the lighting as well as increasing interest in front- and rear-end modules.''