DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. is muscling into the movie business.
To be more precise, Ford's Visteon Automotive Systems hopes Americans will muscle themselves into a comfy Visteon seat at the movies.
Visteon announced last week that it will supply 5,000 movie seats to MJR Theatres, which is building a 20-screen theater complex in Southgate, Mich., in suburban Detroit.
Ford's $17 billion parts division hopes this is the start of something big. The theater industry adds 1.1 million movie seats each year, and Visteon wants a piece of the action.
Last year, Visteon began supplying fabric to manufacturers of stadium seating. Now Visteon wants to expand its role.
Visteon's seat includes a headrest and cupholders built into the arm rests. The world's second-largest auto supplier says it completed MJR's movie-seat prototype in three weeks.
Although the theater seat contract is small by automotive standards, it offers more evidence that Visteon wants to be a player in the seating business. This year, Visteon bid unsuccessfully to acquire Delphi Automotive Systems' seat operation.
That is a reversal for Ford, which has shed most of its automotive seat business.
Visteon has only one seat plant left. Its factory in Chesterfield Township, Mich., makes seats for the Ford Escort and the Lincoln Town Car, Continental and Mark VIII.
Visteon will not necessarily produce the theater seats at that plant.
'We are looking at a number of facilities, but that hasn't been determined yet,' said Visteon spokeswoman Cheryl Eberwein.
This is not the first time Visteon has edged into nonautomotive manufacturing ventures. In January, Visteon formed an alliance with AlliedSignal Power System Inc. to build electric generators.
Visteon also makes glass for the construction industry - a market niche that helps Visteon keep its float glass plants busy 24 hours a day.