LAS VEGAS - Unwilling to risk disrupting production of its profitable full-sized trucks and sport-utilities, General Motors has sent its employees to bankrupt Breed Technologies Inc. to make sure the automaker gets high-quality seat belts on time.
Breed, of Lakeland, Fla., filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in September.
Since then, GM's Truck Group has sent several engineers to Breed plants to ensure delivery of the seat belts, said Bruce Aiello, assistant vehicle line executive for full-sized trucks.
GM's worldwide purchasing group is overseeing the Breed situation. A GM spokesman said the automaker is providing support to a supplier 'having some troubles.'
Recently, Breed has lost engineers and technical staff because of the company's uncertain future.
Last month, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., approved a Breed employee-retention program, which provides bonuses for key technical and management personnel who stay with the company.
Breed's financial woes have highlighted its touchy relations with GM. In August, Breed blamed its problems in part on its unprofitable GM truck contract. Breed expects to lose $30 million on the contract. For three days in August, Breed stopped delivery of the belts in a pricing dispute. The boycott ended after GM filed a lawsuit against Breed.
However, the automaker and Breed seem eager to downplay the significance of GM's engineers in Breed plants.
Breed spokeswoman Robin Kovaleski said GM engineers and other customer representatives are a common sight in company plants. 'Customers have been working with us and keeping close tabs on us,' she said.
Although monitoring Breed has been a drain on the Truck Group's resources, it has kept GM ahead of schedule with the launch of its redesigned Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL.
GM began assembling the new sport-utilities at its plant in Silao, Mexico, in October and will begin assembly in Janesville, Wis., by the end of November.
Breed also supplies seat belts to GM's full-sized pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
Robert Sherefkin contributed to this report