Johnson Controls did not disclose the cost of the acquisition. The suburban Detroit supplier says it expects to complete its deal with Putsch GmbH, Keiper Recaro's holding company, in the first half of 2011.
In 2009, Keiper's seat components generated sales of $797 million, while Recaro's renowned premium seat business generated sales of $158 million.
Keiper has 17 facilities worldwide with 5,813 employees. Recaro has four plants and 606 employees.
In a statement issued Dec. 30, Johnson Controls noted that Keiper's product lineup includes components that adjust the seat's length and height and backrest position, and also rear seat latches.
After its announcement, Johnson Controls declined further comment about its expansion strategy. But a company executive spelled out Johnson Controls' goals in a Dec. 9 interview with Bloomberg News.
Detlef Juerss, JCI's chief of development for seating, said the company wanted to generate more business with premium automakers such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW AG.
As it happens, Keiper supplies both automakers, and its headquarters and technical center are in Kaiserslautern, Germany. That's a major plus for a customer such as BMW, which expects suppliers to work closely with it on vehicle design.
Johnson Controls has made other acquisitions. In December, it purchased C. Rob. Hammerstein Group, which produces metal seat components for the Mercedes S-class sedan.
It also acquired Michel Thierry SA, a French manufacturer of fabrics and leather for vehicle interiors.
Last March, Johnson Controls announced plans to gain a majority share of Benoac Fertigteile GmbH, a joint venture of Johnson Controls, Benecke-Kaliko AG and Inoac Corp.
Johnson Controls, which had a 4.8 percent share of Benoac, is raising its stake to 84.8 percent. Benoac makes surface materials, sometimes called "slush skins," for instrument panels.
Johnson Controls' recent acquisitions are reminiscent of the 1990s, when Johnson Controls and rival seat maker Lear Corp. transformed themselves into producers of complete vehicle interiors.
That acquisition binge ended badly for Lear, which ultimately unloaded its interiors division to ease its crushing debt.
In 2009, Johnson Controls was the world's eighth-largest automotive supplier, with original-equipment sales of $12.8 billion.