PARIS – U.S.-based ASC Inc. of Southgate, MI, and Henri Heuliez Group of Cerizay, France, will work together to sell each other’s products that provide open-air roofs for sedans and coupes.
Leaders of the two companies in interviews at the Paris auto show confirm their intention to announce a marketing partnership in the weeks to come.
The suppliers will work together in what amounts to individual joint ventures each time one of them markets the product of the other.
The two privately held companies are complementary. ASC is strong in North America, sunroofs and soft tops. Heuliez is strong in Europe and in retractable hard tops. ASC has about 1,100 employees, and Heuliez has 1,300. ASC holds about 150 pertinent patents, and Heuliez has about 200. Each has annual sales close to $500 million.
“The pie isn’t big enough for everybody,” says Chris Theodore, ASC vice-chairman. “We have to work together.” Agrees Heuliez President Paul Queveau: “We are complementary.”
The marketing accord will not involve capital, which is convenient for both companies. The main advantage of the deal is to make each business more global without big investments.
For example, says Steve Laurain, ASC’s vice-president for open-air business, “Our opportunities are greater with Ford (Motor Co.).”
At the show, Heuliez displays the Macarena, a concept of a 4-door Peugeot 407 with a folding hardtop first shown at Geneva this spring. Providing a folding hardtop on a mass-market, 4-door car is a principal goal of the two companies.
“The first (auto maker) to the market with that will be the winner,” Theodore says.
Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, the German coachbuilder with about 8,000 employees, is a shadow behind the Franco-American accord. ASC used to have a marketing arrangement with Karmann, but it didn’t work out.
Heuliez made its first attempt to get North American business with the folding top on the Pontiac G6 but lost out to Karmann.
“At the time, we had nothing in the U.S.,” says Queveau, “and Karmann did.”
Now Heuliez technology will reach North America, and ASC’s entry in Europe is a return to its roots. ASC’s founder, the late Heinz Prechter, arrived in California as a young German immigrant with a few dollars in his pocket and a vision of bringing the idea of sunroofs from Europe to America.
During his lifetime, he befriended U.S. presidents and became a powerful figure in the automotive industry.