DETROIT - Mannesmann VDO, which recently acquired Philips Car Systems, is eager to present itself as an all-new competitor in North America.
Mannesmann wants to recast its company image. It has been seen as a component supplier. It wants to be recognized as a major systems player with large international resources.
The message is being carried to automakers by Herb Everss, the new president and CEO of Mannesmann VDO North America. He was hired from Siemens Automotive five months ago.
Mannesmann VDO is a subsidiary of Mannesmann AG of Schwalbach, Germany. Mannes-mann AG is the 17th-largest global OEM automotive supplier. Sales were $4.9 billion in 1996.
Company changes began when the VDO Group, with its strength in fuel systems, gauges and electronics, bought out the remaining half of a 50-50 joint venture with American Yazaki Corp. in 1996.
The company then became Mannesmann VDO North America.
The acquisition of Philips Car Systems, a maker of navigation systems, led Mannesmann VDO North America to complete its identity shift.
'You are watching a rebirth of the company,' Everss said. 'We view the company, itself, as a system.'
Mannesmann may build an automotive campus in Detroit to include both Mannesmann Sachs (suspension components and clutch actuators) and Mannes-mann VDO Control Systems (the former Philips operation).
That change is still under way. The company letterhead a few weeks ago continued to list outdated operating names for some business groups.
The new Mannesmann approach will focus on building relationships and soft issues to sell systems and build carmakers' loyalty.
Hard economic issues have been belabored so much that they no longer define business deals, but are simply expected.
'About every supplier you see in this exhibit hall has good quality, price and technology,' he said. 'Those are not the factors, in my mind, which win business.'