FRANKFURT -- Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor who owns U.S. interiors supplier International Automotive Components Group, expects to expand his collection of supplier assets before the end of the year.
“There will be further consolidation, and IAC will continue to be a consolidator,” Ross said at an industry event here today.
He said his company is looking at a potential acquisition in Europe.
"Our management team in Europe, we're visiting some potential acquisition targets right now. We're going into a meeting right now," Ross told reporters on the sidelines of the Frankfurt Motor Show.
"We are looking at businesses related to what we have right now, both interiors like instrument panels and exteriors."
In July, IAC completed the purchase of key pieces of the insolvent German supplier Stankiewicz GmbH. The move expanded IAC's global business in automotive carpets and acoustic parts.
IAC bought Stankiewicz's nine plants in Germany, Belgium, Poland and the Czech Republic for an undisclosed amount. In a statement, IAC said the plants generate annual sales of more than 150 million euros, or about $221 million at current exchange rates.
The Stankiewicz plants were absorbed into IAC's European business unit, which is made up of plants and other facilities once owned by suppliers Lear Corp., Visteon Corp. and Collins & Aikman Corp.
Separately, Ross said supplier consolidation makes so much sense now because the number of automakers is declining. He thinks that a more-consolidated supplier has the scale to offer supplier-financed r&d, which makes that supplier a better partner for automakers.
“It would be better to depend on a few well-capitalized global suppliers,” Ross said.
He added that the “beat-your-supplier-to-death approach” of some automakers has often been counterproductive.
“When an important supplier becomes insolvent, its OE customers invariably provide massive aid with little hope for real vitality of the target supplier,” Ross said.
IAC Group, of New York, ranks No. 39 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with sales to automakers of $4.60 billion in 2008.
Reuters contributed to this story