Major suppliers, like the automakers, enjoyed a banner fourth quarter and full year.
But 1998 also had its share of significant setbacks to earnings, including the expensive strikes against General Motors and the cost of the continued consolidation of suppliers.
Summaries from selected suppliers:
Arvin Industries Inc.
4Q earnings: $20.4 million, up 18 percent
4Q revenue: $688.2 million, up 15 percent
'98 earnings: $78.4 million, up 18 percent
'98 revenue: $2.5 billion, up 6 percent
Arvin, based in Columbus, Ind., makes exhaust systems and other components. The company said its original equipment sales benefited from strong end-of-year vehicle production in the United States and Europe and from continued improvement in its ride-control business.
Arvin supplied nine of the 10 top-selling vehicle programs in the United States last year. Key platform startups such as GM's GMT800 pickups and the Jeep Grand Cherokee also boosted Arvin's 1998 sales and earnings.
Fiscal 2Q earnings: $1.5 million, down 72 percent
Fiscal 2Q revenue: $239 million, up 23 percent
Donnelly, a maker of mirrors and trim, won contracts to supply interior electrochromic mirrors on two North American light-truck programs. But the company continued to lose money in Europe.
Donnelly is based in Holland, Mich.
Dura Automotive Systems Inc.
4Q earnings: $10.3 million, up 94 percent
4Q revenue: $241.1 million, up 94 percent
'98 earnings: $26 million, up 56 percent
'98 revenue: $739.5 million, up 65 percent
Profits and revenue ballooned as Dura joined the consolidation movement by acquiring Triden Automotive PLC.
Dura, based in Minneapolis, makes driver-control systems. It plans 'substantial' growth this year and has announced plans to acquire Excel Industries Inc. and Adwest Automotive.
4Q earnings: $29 million, up 142 percent
4Q revenue: $1.48 billion, up 255 percent
'98 earnings: 96 cents per share, down 40 percent
'98 revenue: $4.47 billion, up 147 percent
Expansion-minded Federal-Mogul announced or completed 10 acquisitions last year, including the automotive operations of Cooper Industries. The spree ballooned revenue, but the acquisition costs were a big drag on short-term earnings. Earnings per share from operations increased 64 percent for the year.
Federal-Mogul is in Southfield, Mich.
4Q earnings: $73.4 million, up 7 percent
4Q revenue: $2.9 billion, up 36 percent
'98 earnings: $208 million, even
'98 revenue: $9.1 billion, up 23 percent
The watershed year included the acquisition of Delphi Seating; expansion into Belgium, Portugal and Russia; and the launching of products for more than 30 new auto interior programs, as well as the signing of two new contracts to provide total interiors.
Lear is based in Southfield, Mich.
4Q earnings: $17.1 million, up 53 percent
4Q revenue: $64.3 million, up 22 percent
'98 earnings: $50.3 million, up 43 percent
'98 revenue: $222.3 million, up 19 percent
Stronger unit shipments and higher gross margins contributed to greatly improved results for Gentex of Zeeland, Mich., maker of mirrors and related components.
The fourth-quarter surge in large part reflected makeup from units lost to the GM strikes earlier in the year.
Simpson Industries Inc.
4Q earnings: $3.2 million
4Q revenue: $132.1 million, up 7 percent
'98 earnings: $14.8 million
'98 revenue: $496.4 million, up 10 percent
Stronger demand from North American automotive customers fueled the fourth-quarter sales increase, along with the strength of French markets.
Net earnings of $3.2 million were down slightly from the year-ago quarter. But excluding a one-time charge for head-count reductions, Simpson earned $5.1 million, up 42.2 percent.
Simpson, of Plymouth, Mich., makes powertrain and chassis components.
Superior Industries International Inc.
4Q earnings: $19.5 million, up 25 percent
4Q revenue: $152.7 million, up 1 percent
'98 earnings: $52.3 million, down 6 percent
'98 revenue: $539.4 million, down 2 percent
The GM strikes whacked second- and third-quarter earnings and sales for Superior Industries of Van Nuys, Calif., a supplier of aluminum wheels. But the fourth quarter was great: Earnings exceeded analysts' expectations by almost 11 percent, and original-equipment wheel shipments rose 9 percent.
The company's new contracts include Ford's Windstar minivan and GM's GMT800 pickups.
4Q loss: $60 million
4Q revenue: $1.9 billion, even
'98 earnings: $255 million, down 20 percent
'98 revenue: $7.6 billion, up 5 percent
Tenneco's auto operations had a bad year. In the fourth quarter, global automotive operations posted a $4 million loss, compared with earnings of $77 million a year earlier.
The reasons: weak aftermarket sales and softer markets overseas.
Tenneco, a maker of exhaust systems and ride-control products based in Greenwich, Conn., turned in strong performances in original-equipment sales and specialty automotive packaging businesses, said CEO Dana Mead.
4Q earnings: $160 million, up 7 percent
4Q revenue: $2.6 billion, up 11 percent
'98 earnings: $608 million, up 9 percent
'98 revenue: $9.7 billion, up 12 percent
Textron, of Providence, R.I., marked its 37th consecutive quarter of year-to-year income improvement. Auto income and revenue increased 31 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in the fourth quarter and 19 percent and 13 percent, respectively, for all of 1998, in large part a result of higher volume of the Kautex plastic fuel-tank unit because of capacity expansion in North America.
Price reductions trimmed automotive gains, Textron noted, as did the GM strikes.
Tower Automotive Inc.
4Q earnings: $27 million, up 59 percent
4Q revenue: $469 million, up 8 percent
'98 earnings: $88 million, up 80 percent
'98 revenue: $1.8 billion, up 50 percent
Tower posted its 'best year ever, by quite a margin,' said CEO Dugald Campbell. The company said that reflected an increasing ability to help customers cut costs and advance technology with Tower components.
Tower, based in Minneapolis, supplies suspension systems.