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Ford Sells First ACH Facility

Ford also enters into a memorandum of understanding with the supplier Neapco to sell its plant in Monroe, MI.

Ford Motor Co. today sold the first of 17 former Visteon Corp. plants relegated to a holding company as part of the supplier’s 2005 restructuring initiative.

Cooper-Standard Automotive acquired the fuel-rail manufacturing operations in Juarez, Mexico, from Automotive Components Holdings LLC.

It is the first plant to be sold under the auspices of ACH. Sales of three Michigan plants – in Milan, Plymouth and Monroe – are pending, with ACH having entered into tentative agreements with Flex-N-Gate Forming Technologies LLC, Valeo SA and Neapco LLC, respectively.

The Neapco memorandum of understanding is announced April 2, while the other two deals were struck late last year.

An ACH spokeswoman declines to speculate when the remaining sales might be finalized, but Valeo has said a conclusion of the Plymouth deal is imminent.

Plymouth is tooled up to manufacture air-conditioning components, while Milan is ready to build fascias and fuel tanks and Monroe manufactures propshafts.

Meanwhile, one supplier executive suggests ACH will have difficulty unloading other properties. That’s because the plants are hamstrung by outdated technology, says Heinrich Baumann, president and owner of J.J. Eberspacher GmbH & Co. KG, a supplier of automotive exhaust systems based in Esslingen, Germany.

Despite Eberspacher’s anxiousness to expand its manufacturing footprint to include North America, it remains wary of plants that once belonged to Visteon or Delphi Corp., Baumann says.

“We would have great difficulty integrating former Visteon or Delphi plants into our organization,” he says. “They had a protected base (of customers), so their technology is not up to date.”

Visteon is a former captive supplier of Ford, while bankrupt Delphi serviced General Motors Corp. in the same manner before it was spun off.

When Eberspacher first entered the North American market in 2000, Visteon’s technology was “20 years behind us because they didn’t need to change or innovate,” Baumann adds.

Time is running out on the remaining ACH facilities because Ford has said it will idle them if buyers cannot be found. A decision on timing will be made by year’s end, the ACH spokeswoman says.

Meanwhile, Ford has taken steps to address the concerns raised by Baumann, saying since ACH’s inception, the auto maker has “focused on improving its engineering, capital and management skills to improve its business.”

Ford says the MOU with Neapco is based on a proposed operation that would require only one-fifth the size of the current Monroe plant, as the supplier only wants the propshaft operations.

The Monroe plant also produces driveshafts, halfshafts, other driveline products and catalytic converters.

In a prepared statement announcing the MOU with Neapco, Al Ver, chief executive officer and chief operating officer of ACH, says the organization is willing to use “creative approaches” to sell off units, “including moving to a greenfield site if necessary.”

Financial terms concerning both the MOU with Neapco and the sale of the Juarez plant were not disclosed.

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