Last year, when Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp. used a U.S. company to buy out the assets of global airbag supplier Takata Corp. of Japan, it illustrated many things.
First, it showed that Chinese investment could play a significant role in the U.S. auto supplier industry, despite the plummet in activity this year amid rising U.S.-China trade tensions.
And second, it provided a glimpse of how a strategic Chinese investment might be structured for a major auto supplier with worldwide ambitions.
For Guido Durrer, who last year was named CEO of the company that emerged from the union of three companies — China's Joyson, Japan's Takata and Detroit's Key Safety Systems, the Joyson-owned company through which it acquired Takata — the investment has launched a mission of global company-building, with Detroit at its center.
"We're really creating a new company," Durrer told Automotive News. "And people like to build a company."
Doing that, he said, means instilling a new corporate culture around the world. Not a Chinese culture adopted from Joyson's roots in Ningbo, China. Not a Japanese culture retained from Takata. And not an American culture adopted from Detroit, where the executives reside. But a culture that grows from the organization that is coming together, with new executives, new mission statements and a new outlook.
"A culture doesn't happen overnight," Durrer said. "It takes time to align people and targets."
Durrer and the man who hired him — Chinese billionaire Wang Jianfeng — are already transforming the company.
"In the beginning, this was a Japanese company, run in Japanese management style," Durrer said of Takata.
"It was a company where people did not speak much English. It had a regional approach to business, where the regions invented their own product and machinery.
"We're changing to a matrix organization with a strong product approach."
Each of the company's 103 locations is undergoing training programs to improve quality and safety, establish procedures and create standard audits from plant to plant.
Joyson will be a Detroit-headquartered company, with r&d largely coming out of the U.S. and Europe, with sales and marketing in both Detroit and Tokyo and with China providing a large part of the manufacturing.
The business, now called Joyson Safety Systems, is doing about $7 billion in annual sales and estimates it controls roughly a 30 percent market share of the world airbag and airbag-related interior parts segment, including seat belts, steering wheels and related interior trim parts. By 2023, the CEO anticipates, Joyson will claim a 40 percent share of that segment and be on track for $9 billion in annual sales.
The safety operations include plastics for housings and other components.
But getting to that point is requiring a global reorganization. The company has gone from a combined work force of 72,000 people down to about 56,000, and the task is not finished. And those 103 operating locations around the world? Durrer wants to cut the number to about 60.
"We just don't need that many," he said. "We have double the manufacturing we need."