Oxford Automotive Inc. is a privately-held group that has become one of the fastest growing suppliers in the metal framing, structural suspension and door module businesses. It is a full service supplier of metal components.
Steve Abelman, Oxford's President and CEO, was interviewed by Automotive News Europe's Edmund Chew.
You recently unveiled your intention to buy Italian plastics and metal supplier Gessaroli. How does Gessaroli fit into your strategic vision?
We have been working on door modules. Gessaroli makes latches and mechanisms and the pieces that attach to the modules. It has the technology to help us develop leading edge door modules. Gessaroli also has an exceptional relationship with Fiat and the Italian market.
That will help us to broaden our whole European strategy. We are already present in France and Germany, and Gessaroli will give us a technological presence in a third important decision-making area.
How fast is Oxford growing?
Three-and-a-half years ago, we had annual sales of about $85 million. This year, sales should grow to more than $800 million. We have full engineering capabilities we can do prototyping, product development and one of the best global program management systems. We have technology centers in the USA and Europe and a variety of manufacturing capabilities. We can, essentially, produce the whole body-in-white.
What kinds of service are the OEMs looking for?
Certain OEMs are looking to partner with companies that can develop new technologies companies that can help their engineers achieve the most efficient and economical ways of producing vehicles. Each OEM is in a different position but they are all looking for a trusting partnership.
How fast is the market for door modules developing in the major regions?
The interest in door modules started in North America but it has grown all over the world. When we are fully launched in Mexico, we will be making in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 doors a day, fully trimmed with skins, door inners and impact beams. There is a lot of complexity in the door module business.
A lot of space on the assembly line is required to make doors, and there is a lot of technology that you can change to help reduce warranty issues.
What factors will determine who wins in the door module market?
The winners will be the companies that are able to produce the fully integrated door in a different way. Instead of stamping out big areas to create space for a window, they will utilize different techniques to minimize waste and reduce costs. There are numerous possibilities.
For example, doors that can easily accept a variety of fascias. Doors where the components can be assembled off-line, maybe even by robots, to ensure the quality of the electrical connections. Doors that can be disassembled fairly easily so that if there are warranty issues, they can be repaired easily. Doors made of materials other than steel.
Doors that can be attached to the vehicle easily, to ensure quality for the customer. And of course you have to bring in other requirements, such as safety.
Oxford buys presses to enter plastics business, Page 29.