Harvard Industries Inc. is so tough that a sliver of the company has survived Chapter 55.
That's bankruptcy court humor for five -- count 'em, five -- Chapter 11 reorganizations.
A former unit of the company last month emerged from Chapter 11, the fifth bankruptcy reorganization linked to the Lebanon, N.J., auto parts maker in 34 years, and the fourth since 1991. (Four of the Chapter 11 filings were by Harvard itself; the fifth involved a former Harvard unit spun off in a previous reorganization.)
"I've been involved in Chapter 11s, 22s and 33s," turnaround specialist Torben Von Staden said in jest about the serial Chapter 11 reorganizations he has handled. But never a 44 or 55, he said.
Harvard's long survival underscores how failure on the corporate battlefield does not mean death. In a growing number of cases, federal bankruptcy courts are giving new life to auto parts makers that otherwise would go into liquidation.
At least 10 original-equipment suppliers sought Chapter 11 protection from creditors last year, including giants Delphi Corp., Collins & Aikman Corp. and Tower Automotive Inc. By contrast, just four filed in 2004, according to BankruptcyData.com.
Supplier bankruptcies are risky for automakers. If not propped up with emergency capital, a supplier can shut down production and interrupt automakers' assembly lines.