Brembo S.p.A., Italy's designer brake maker for high-end cars, has barely gotten off the ground in U.S. manufacturing. But Brembo North America CEO Dan Sandberg says the company already is looking to grow.
Over the next four or five years, Sandberg envisions investing $100 million to expand in North America.
"We're making brake calipers outside of Italy for the first time," Sandberg says, referring to the start of U.S. production late last year in Homer, Mich., about 100 miles west of Detroit. "We want to be closer to our North American customers -- not just through sales and engineering but also manufacturing locally."
Brembo is known for the made-in-Italy, brightly colored red and yellow aluminum brake components that show up inside the wheels of expensive sports cars and luxury-class imports. Some of the calipers are labeled "Brembo" while others display the brand name of the vehicle.
Last year the company's contract to supply the U.S.-made Cadillac CTS-V required Brembo to produce the calipers in a U.S. factory for the first time. The move capped off three years of North American investments totaling $100 million.
"I envision that we'll double that investment figure over the next four or five years," Sandberg says.
Sandberg, a 52-year-old Detroiter, is the former head of Hayes Lemmerz's Automotive Brake Components, which Brembo acquired at the end of 2007.
Sandberg says the infusion of Brembo-brand manufacturing into Hayes' existing Michigan plant is a shot in the arm for the old company. Sandberg said Hayes had struggled to keep its U.S. work force fully employed before Brembo stepped in. He says Brembo's 300 U.S. employees are now three times what Hayes had before.
But he adds that it was Hayes' success in reducing the manufacturing costs of the commodity parts of brake systems -- the drums and rotors -- that drew Brembo to Hayes in the first place.
"We offered lower costs, and through its aluminum calipers, Brembo offered significant weight reduction," the executive sums up. "This will prove to be very appealing to customers."
He declined to say what other U.S. automakers Brembo is courting, saying that for now, "We're very dedicated to GM."