To crack the Korean auto industry, just take Lear Corp.'s simple advice: Do it Hyundai's way.
Four years ago Lear did no business with Hyundai Automotive Group. Then the automaker made a proposal: Create a joint venture with one of Hyundai's own business units, Dymos.
That was nothing unusual. For more than 20 years, Japanese automakers have brokered similar deals between their traditional suppliers and North American companies, including Lear itself.
But those marriages typically joined companies that were in the same business.
Hyundai's proposal was different. It wanted to link the U.S. seating giant with Dymos, its wholly owned maker of transmissions and axles.
But in 2002 Dymos also was nurturing a business plan to expand into the seating business. The company has created a research center to learn how to develop and design seats.
Recalls Lear COO Doug DelGrosso: "They said, 'We've got a global partnership in mind. If you're prepared to structure it this way, then there's an opportunity for you to grow with us.'
"And it's been very beneficial to us," he says. "It might seem a little unusual at first, but it's working well."
Lear is struggling to make its traditional North American business profitable because of reduced Big 3 business and higher material costs. So it is eager to grow beyond the Big 3.
Lear now supplies 100 percent of the seats to Hyundai's 300,000-vehicle-a-year plant in Alabama. It also is supplying seats in Korea and has opened a seat venture in China for Hyundai, Beijing Lear Dymos Automotive Systems Co.
DelGrosso says Lear also is looking forward to Hyundai group business in Europe and awaiting news about expanding to serve the group's planned Kia assembly plant in Georgia.
You may e-mail Lindsay Chappell at [email protected]