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No. 357, June 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


Although it has manufactured bearings in the United States for nearly three decades, MINEBEA CO., LTD., the world's dominant maker of miniature ball bearings, still is refining its market approach. Its latest move involves transferring more responsibility for development and production to NEW HAMPSHIRE BALL BEARINGS, INC., which runs two plants in New Hampshire that Minebea acquired in 1985 as well as the company's original factory in Chatsworth, California. That facility, which has made miniature and instrument ball bearings since 1971, will undergo a $20.5 million renovation this year to better equip it to respond to changing U.S. market requirements.

OILES CORP., a big manufacturer of self-lubricating bearings for automotive applications, including at a plant in Concord, North Carolina, has received an order from GENERAL MOTORS CORP. for cam units for body stampings that comply with the North American Automotive Metric Standards. The Big Three U.S. makers adopted NAAMS to standardize specifications for vehicle parts and the equipment used to make them in order to trim production costs. The GM contract is worth only about $1.6 million in the first year, but Oiles hopes that its ability to meet NAAMS specifications will translate into a $16.4 million annual business with GM in coming years. Production of the cam units could begin at the North Carolina facility, which opened in 1991, as soon as the end of this year.

Having decided to focus on its core automotive business, NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD. has agreed in principle to sell its global forklift manufacturing and marketing business to NACCO MATERIALS HANDLING GROUP, INC. The final purchase price still needs to be worked out, but it is likely to top $300 million. The deal with the Portland, Oregon maker of Hyster and Yale lift trucks includes NISSAN FORKLIFT CORP. OF NORTH AMERICA. Nissan established this Marengo, Illinois company after buying a forklift manufacturer located there in 1988. NACCO Materials Handling also will take over Nissan's European forklift operations, which are anchored by a Spanish plant. In Japan, the pending acquisition, which is expected to be completed later this year, covers the Nissan lift truck factory in Tokyo and seven dealerships. NACCO Materials Handling already produces forklifts in Japan under the Yale and Sumitomo-Yale names through an equally owned venture with SUMITOMO HEAVY INDUSTRIES, LTD. The Nissan brand name, product line and dealer network will be maintained, although NACCO Materials Handling expects some Nissan activities to be integrated with Hyster and Yale operations in time. Now the world's number-two producer of forklifts, the American company will become the biggest lift truck manufacturer once the transaction is finalized. Last year, NACCO Materials Handling and Nissan together turned out more than 100,000 units.

In October, MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES, LTD. will open a recoating facility for its SuperDry gear-cutting machines at MHI MACHINE TOOL U.S.A., INC. in Itasca, Illinois, a move that will save automotive makers and other users both time and money. MHI's hobbing system uses no cutting fluids in grinding gears. Instead, the SuperDry hob cuts gears at what is said to be twice the speed of conventional machines through the combination of a high-speed steel base material developed by MHI and a proprietary coating that dissipates heat and reduces tool wear. Tool life reportedly is as much as five times longer than with a traditional hob. MHI has sold 50 SuperDry gear machines worldwide since introducing this technology in 1998.

For the first time in 10 years, KOMATSU LTD., the world's second-largest manufacturer of earthmoving and other construction equipment, has redesigned its line of bulldozers for the U.S. market. In succession, manufacturer and marketer KOMATSU AMERICA INTERNATIONAL CO. of Vernon Hills, Illinois will introduce a new big (872 horsepower) bulldozer, the D475A, several midsized products and, in the latter part of 2000, a number of small bulldozers. KAIC expects to sell 40 of the big earthmover in the first year of marketing. The D475A will list for $1.3 million. .....KOMATSU LTD. also has on the drawing boards for a FY 2000 launch a small skid-steer loader designed specifically for the American market. Affiliate KOMATSU ZENOAH CO. is responsible for developing and manufacturing the new product.

HOKUETSU INDUSTRIES CO., LTD., best known for its Airman line of screw compressors but a manufacturer as well of mini-excavators, diesel generators and engine welders, has launched a campaign to boost exports, particularly to the United States, to offset lagging sales at home. Represented by MITSUI MACHINERY DISTRIBUTION, INC. of Bridgeport, New Jersey, the Niigata prefecture firm has had some success in the American rental equipment market. In fact, a recent trade show produced an order for 55 Airman compressors and other products. Hokuetsu Industries' near-term goal is a broader U.S. distribution network.

Starting this fall, TOYO RADIATOR CO., LTD. will ship heat exchangers to ALLIEDSIGNAL POWER SYSTEMS INC. for an innovative 75-kilowatt power-generating system that the Torrance, California company has developed for such uses as standby power, portable power or off-grid power generation. The Japanese automotive parts manufacturer, which already makes heat
exchangers, will spend $16.4 million on a plant dedicated to supplying ASPS. Annual capacity will be 10,000 units. TOKYO BOEKI LTD. has exclusive rights to sell the TurboGenerator in Japan (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 353, February 1999, p. 20).

Rolling stock manufacturer NIPPON SHARYO, LTD. plans to launch exports of portable generators to the United States to take advantage initially of the demand for this electricity- producing source from businesses and consumers worried that the Y2K computer bug will disrupt power supplies. The company's sales goal is a modest 100 units a year.

An environmentally friendly four-cycle engine codeveloped by KOMATSU ZENOAH CO. and RYOBI LTD.'s R&D/design center in Chandler, Arizona is on the market under both companies' brand names. Designed for grass trimmers, brush cutters and other lawn and garden equipment, the engine is manufactured by RYOBI OUTDOOR PRODUCTS, INC., which also is located in Chandler. This fall, Norcross, Georgia-based KOMATSU ZENOAH AMERICA, INC. also will introduce a two- cycle engine that its parent developed. This product will be supplied as well to chainsaw manufacturer STIHL INC. of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

For approximately $1.3 million, ISHIKAWAJIMA-HARIMA HEAVY INDUSTRIES CO., LTD. acquired the nuclear power plant boiling-water reactor inspection unit of SOUTHWEST RESEARCH INSTITUTE. This move followed an early 1998 project between IHI engineers and the San Antonio, Texas group to devise a method for performing the often difficult job of inspecting the welds inside boiling-water reactors. Along with its ISHIKAWAJIMA INSPECTION & CONSTRUCTION CO., LTD. subsidiary, the diversified Japanese manufacturer formed IHI SOUTHWEST TECHNOLOGIES, INC. to run SWRI's nuclear power plant inspection business. The new company is looking for revenues of $5 million in the first year, but it hopes to double this figure quickly, in part by expanding operations to the dismantling of nuclear reactors.

An exchange rate of ¥122=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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