A German exhaust and heating, ventilating and air conditioning supplier with a commanding position in North America's heavy-duty market plans to make a play for the passenger-vehicle market.
Eberspaecher, which says it controls about half of the Class 8 commercial-vehicle market, has expanded its Brighton, Mich., plant outside Detroit to launch the effort.
The expansion more than tripled factory and administrative operations to 340,000 square feet to allow the company to step up its North American commercial truck business. But more significantly, it frees up a second U.S. Eberspaecher plant in nearby Wixom, Mich., which the company now intends to turn to production of parts for North American passenger vehicles.
"It gives us the opportunity to clear up floor space to focus on light-vehicle launches in Wixom," said Greg Sibley, president of Eber-spaecher North America.
The maneuvering is far from wishful thinking: The company is preparing to roll out 11 products over the next 18 months for North American light-vehicle manufacturers such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co.
"We're well-established with the German automakers, but we're looking to grow with some of the more established customers here in North America," Sibley said.
He said U.S. environmental regulations, which are giving some automakers headaches as they look to build lighter and more fuel-efficient vehicles, have been a boon to Eberspaecher. The company has gained a reputation for lighter-weight exhaust and HVAC systems.
Sibley said the company has established "technical credibility" in the heavy-duty vehicle market with customers such as Daimler and Volvo. That credibility has already paid off with Ford, for which it will provide "hot end" components such as catalytic converters and heat shields on the Escape crossover.
"Our customers are desiring lighter and more efficient products," Sibley said. "We have a lot of growing to do, and I think we're well positioned."
In addition to the 11 upcoming product launches, Eberspaecher is targeting growth with two customers in the medium- and heavy-duty truck segments, Sibley said.
The Brighton plant, which opened in 2003, produces about 600 exhaust and heating-air conditioning systems a day for about 150,000 vehicles each year, according to Eberspaecher.
Eberspaecher Gruppe GmbH, of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, ranks No. 49 on Automotive News' list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide parts sales of $4.73 billion in its 2015 fiscal year. It ranks No. 20 in Europe and its North American unit ranks No. 53 in North America.