GRAZ, Austria -- Magna Steyr thinks it is only a matter of time before it has vehicle assembly plants in North America and Asia.
The missing element remains finding an automaker customer.
"I don't think it's a matter of if. It is just a matter of when," says Mark Hogan, president of Magna International Inc., the Aurora, Ontario, parent of Magna Steyr.
"We are getting enough interest on the part of OEMs to warrant us getting more confident that we are going to end up doing that," Hogan said in an interview at Magna Steyr's headquarters in Graz.
Graz is Magna Steyr's only auto production plant. Last year the plant's 9,000 employees built 230,070 vehicles for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Jeep and Saab.
While not divulging names, Hogan said a "handful of companies" have expressed interest in contracting with Magna Steyr to build niche vehicles in North America and Asia.
Audi, Porsche and BMW are some possible customers for a Magna plant in North America, says Markus Maechler, an analyst for the Credit Suisse Group in Zurich, Switzerland.
The United States is the most important export market for the three German carmakers, all of which are taking a financial hit because the strong euro makes exporting cars to the United States expensive.
"Audi is a potential candidate," Maechler said. "... For currency reasons they might intend to start production in North America."
Maechler says about half of Porsche's sales are in the United States. So, "depending on the currency issue, they might consider taking a partner there."
Magna Steyr could capitalize on its links with BMW to build cars for the automaker in the United States, he says.
Magna Steyr did the complete vehicle engineering for BMW's Z4 coupe. The Z4 coupe is built at BMW's plant in Spartanburg, S.C.
BMW may need extra capacity because it is adding a new, X5-based vehicle at Spartanburg in 2008. Last year Spartanburg built 124,816 Z4s and X5s. The plant has capacity for 150,000 units.
BMW would not comment on whether Magna could become a production partner in the United States.
Audi Chairman Martin Winterkorn would like to build cars in North America, Audi's No. 1 export market. But the Volkswagen group, Audi's parent company, is unlikely to approve Audi manufacturing in North America while VW's plants in Mexico and Europe have unfilled capacity.
Jens Meiners contributed to this report