The Chrysler group said Thursday that it will spend $400 million over the next five years with minority-owned Bridgewater Interiors LLC.
The deal is the largest contract that DaimlerChrysler AG has signed with any of its 300 minority suppliers.
Bridgewater of Detroit, a joint venture between minority-owned Epsilon LLC and Johnson Controls Inc., will supply overhead interior systems for the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee as part of the deal. The seating supplier also will manufacture parts for a future Chrysler-group vehicle in a separate deal. The automaker declined to name that vehicle.
Tom Sidlik, DaimlerChrysler executive vice president of global procurement and supply, said that Bridgewater met the automaker's required cost, quality, technology and delivery goals.
Sidlik said the location of Bridgewater's Detroit plant also was a factor because it is just a few miles from the Chrysler group's Jefferson North assembly plant, where the Jeep Cherokee is manufactured.
The contract is the first between Chrysler and Bridgewater. In the supplier's six-year history it has landed contracts with General Motors, Honda Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. - the most lucrative worth $500 million a year.
Bridgewater employs a largely minority work force at its Detroit plant, one of three locations for the supplier. Bridgewater CEO Ron Hall said the company employs 236 at the Detroit plant. He said that minorities make up 92 percent of the work force; 50 percent are women.
"This is a good opportunity for us to become a role model for other minority suppliers," Hall said. "It gives us an opportunity to show that minority suppliers can handle big contracts and do good work."