Kolbenschmidt Pierburg isn't exactly a household name in the U.S. auto industry. And that is something executives of the German engine components supplier are painfully aware of.
It recently began supplying the electronic throttle controls to General Motors' new inline-six truck engine. And it is currently supplying 100 percent of Nissan North America Inc.'s piston needs - a growing opportunity in light of Nissan's current expansion.
With new plant lines coming on stream in South Carolina, U.S. production is expanding. The company is forecasting about $600 million in new North American sales over the next four years. That would triple North American revenues to about $900 million in 2005, predicts Kolbenschmidt Pierburg AG Chairman Dieter Seipler.
"We cannot achieve this growth through internal growth only," Seipler says. "We are prepared for acquisitions and strategic alliances, especially with focus on North America and Asia."
Still - there's the business of that name.
"Kolbenschmidt Pierburg" doesn't exactly roll off the American tongue. Not like, say, "Bosch." Or even direct competitor "Mahle."
Seipler says the company has toyed with the idea of shortening the name somehow. But it's a hard call, he admits. He has chatted with the management of Denso International about it. In the 1990s, Denso chopped its own name down from Nippondenso. But that change was less linguistic than political. Denso was racking up new business from U.S. and European customers and fretted that Japanese trade problems might trip up a global company with such a Japanese name.
Kolbenschmidt Pierburg has no such concern.
In fact, the manufacturer is on the verge of declaring a new U.S. presence with a 150,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters and laboratory in suburban Detroit. The company is slow-walking the headquarters plan as it tries to keep up with its growing U.S. business. But the architectural plans have been evolving.
Originally, the building was to represent just two of Kolbenschmidt Pierburg's U.S. business segments - pistons and throttle controls. But as it took stock of its growth segments, KP decided the HQ needed to represent all of its global segments, including aluminum blocks, water pumps, bearings and bushings.