DETROIT -- Two of the automotive industry's largest parts suppliers are in federal court over the alleged theft of technology intended for the Chrysler group.
Multimatic Inc. of Markham, Ontario, filed suit May 25 in U.S. Eastern District Court here against Faurecia Interior Systems USA Inc. alleging breach of contract. Multimatic alleges Faurecia took a proprietary crossbeam design for instrument panels and sourced it with a competitor to get a lower price.
Multimatic was a supplier to Faurecia on a project being done for Chrysler.
"It's a survival issue," said Mark Sullivan, director of sales and engineering for Multimatic. "If we allow someone to take technology, use it at their will regardless of any agreement, then we're going to have to find a different business."
Faurecia argues in its response that, under the terms of its contract with Multimatic, it owns the rights to the technology. And Faurecia says it was forced to find a different supplier for the part because Multimatic tried to double the price per unit from about $25 to about $50.
Multimatic has asked the federal court to issue an injunction to prevent Faurecia from using the design while the case moves through the courts.
Multimatic says in its complaint that the crossbeam that Faurecia specified was too heavy and became more expensive because of design changes required by Faurecia. So it developed a crossbeam independently using technology it wanted to sell not only to Faurecia but to other customers.
Faurecia says it faced substantial losses at the requested Multimatic price.
Faurecia's response says the instrument panels are for Chrysler's JS program, the replacement vehicle for the Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Stratus cars.
A Faurecia affidavit says the company's contract with Chrysler calls for 200,000 to 250,000 instrument panels per year starting in August 2006.
Faurecia Interior Systems is a subsidiary of Faurecia of Nanterre, France.
Faurecia ranks No. 42 on the Automotive News 2004 list of the top 150 suppliers to North America with North American original-equipment parts sales of $1.28 billion in 2004. Multimatic ranks No. 98, with North American OEM sales of $418 million in 2004.
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