Not so long ago, the North American auto industry's foundries were a fragmented lot, dominated by small, privately held businesses that catered to local customers.
But global players are emerging in the sector that produces some of the industry's less glamorous components.
One is Metaldyne Performance Group Inc., or MPG, a $3 billion foundry company formed in 2014 from the merger of Metaldyne, Grede Holdings and HHI Group Holdings. It specializes in ductile iron castings for steering knuckles, control arms, differential cases and other parts.
The company also produces forgings, powdered metal parts, and machined components.
With plants in 13 countries, the company now can compete for contracts to supply global platforms, says Doug Grimm, MPG's chief operating officer. To beef up its overseas presence, MPG also has formed alliances with GF Automotive of Switzerland and Riken Corp. of Japan.
"We have the resources to support global engines, transmissions and vehicles," Grimm says.
The company also has diversified, with three product portfolios for automotive, industrial and heavy-truck industries. That strategy is yielding mixed results since the industrial and heavy-truck sectors are struggling.
But Grimm says he is sticking with the plan: "We are diversified, we are riding out the storm, and we will be ready for the upturn."
On the upside, MPG's automotive foundries are running steadily at 90 percent of capacity. Last year, the company allotted $200 million for capital expenditures such as equipment improvement and expansions of foundries in Monterrey, Mexico; New Castle, Ind.; Biscoe, N.C.; and St. Cloud, Minn.
MPG didn't build any new foundries, but Grimm says the company might make some acquisitions if opportunities arise. Grimm and his colleagues have some experience with this. Over the past decade, the three companies that formed MPG made 12 acquisitions.
Grimm doesn't think the North American market is teetering toward a downturn -- at least not yet. Industry analysts have forecast a continued expansion of production, he notes.
"Our customers are doing very well, and the industry is doing very well, and MPG is doing the right things," Grimm says.