DETROIT - Hella, the German automotive supplier, is preparing to build an undisclosed number of plants in the USA. Hella wants to break away from its joint venture structure in North America.
The announcement, made by Hella President Michael Buford, came as he unveiled the company's new $22 million headquarters and manufacturing plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Buford said he wants to find a location for a 60,000-square-meter factory for automotive lighting and electronics in the Midwest and southeastern USA, but he gave no specific details on locations.
The plans are the result of the crossroads Hella has reached in a joint venture it formed more than 10 years ago with its two Japanese partners - Koito Manufacturing and Ichikoh Industries.
Although negotiations to renew the contract among the partners are underway, Hella is keen to operate alone.
'Market conditions are different,' Buford said. 'Hella needs to consolidate under one ownership.'
New plants would allow Hella to market its products outside North America.
The joint venture had helped increase Hella's North American business by giving the company access to transplanted Japanese auto plants, said Walter Genthe, Buford's predecessor.
The company has grown at a 27 percent annual compounded rate since Genthe founded the company's North American operations 20 years ago.
Hella Electronics posted sales of $100 million last year, and its joint venture had combined sales of $280 million last year, Buford said.
The company is owned by Hella of Germany, a company created by the Hueck family during the Napoleonic era.