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No. 360, September 1999

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American Companies in Japan


Virtually all American Tier 1 automotive parts manufacturers lately have expressed renewed interest in the Japanese market. The Visteon Automotive Systems unit of FORD MOTOR CO., the world's second-largest parts supplier, has gone a big step further. For an undisclosed price, it acquired NALDEC CORP., a maker of advanced electronic body and safety vehicle modules, from MAZDA MOTOR CORP. The Hiroshima-head-quartered company was formed in 1987 as an equally owned venture between now Ford-controlled Mazda and NEC CORP. The latter sold its share to its partner at the end of June in preparation for a divestiture. Naldec, which employs approximately 220 people, including about 70 engineers, had sales of $88.5 million in the year through March 1999. During that period, it produced some 4 million air bag, antilock brake, keyless entry, speed control and other electrical modules, primarily for Mazda. The deal has obvious benefits for Mazda and Visteon alike. For the Japanese automotive maker, the sale is part of its financial comeback strategy of shedding nonessential businesses to focus on its core car and truck operations. It follows by roughly a month the sale of Mazda's financing unit to FORD MOTOR CREDIT CO. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 359, August 1999, p. 20). For Visteon, the acquisition of Naldec not only gives it an onshore production capability and the means to expand business with other Japanese vehicle makers but also a source of manufacturing expertise that potentially can be applied to other operations around the world.

The 13-year-old manufacturing joint venture between DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE SYSTEMS CORP.'s Harrison Thermal Division and CALSONIC CORP. has announced plans to launch production for export of a next-generation air-conditioning compressor that the two developed. CALSONIC HARRISON CORP., in which the biggest automotive parts supplier in the world has a 49 percent stake, will add to the output of its Utsunomiya, Tochigi prefecture factory in the fourth quarter a compact variable compressor that is said to generate less noise and vibration than conventional vehicle AC compressors. The plant now makes current-generation variable-displacement compressors for the Japanese market. At capacity operation, Calsonic Harrison will be able to turn out 450,000 CVC units a year, initially for BMW AG's European plants. The expansion will create about 170 jobs.

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