In an e-mail, Toulemonde said Faurecia has been stricter with its new contracts. Its new contracts are generating 5 percent operating margins in the United States and Europe, he said.
Stewart Pedder, managing director of Supplier Business Ltd. in Stamford, England, wrote in an e-mail that Faurecia's push in North America is part of a larger effort to increase non-European business as part of its overall sales.
"They are doing this largely through acquisitions -- they have said about a third of it -- picking up suppliers that have been left exposed by the restructuring of the industry," Pedder said.
Faurecia also is seeking to increase the use of lightweight plastic components as automakers try to cut vehicle weight. One effort is replacing steel components with plastics on seat structures.
European automakers' expansion in the United States also is benefiting Faurecia. Key customer BMW will launch its second plant in Spartanburg this autumn. Faurecia is constructing a seat plant in Cottondale, Alabama, for Mercedes-Benz, previously not a Faurecia customer in North America. Not far away in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Faurecia has acquired an interior components plant to begin supplying another new customer, Nissan North America Inc.
Faurecia also has been tapped to supply exhaust systems, interior parts, exterior parts and seats to Volkswagen's new mid-sized sedan venture in Chattanooga, Tennessee, starting next year. Although Faurecia is majority-owned by PSA, Volkswagen AG has eclipsed PSA as the supplier's largest global customer. VW Group accounts for 23.5 percent of Faurecia's product sales followed by PSA (19.2 percent), Ford Motor Co. (12.8 percent), Renault-Nissan (12.5 percent) and General Motors Co. (9.7 percent).
In February, as the U.S. industry was struggling to get back on its feet after a year of closed assembly plants and supply chain havoc, Faurecia completed its acquisition of Detroit's Emcon Technologies, a maker of emissions control systems. The no-cash deal, Faurecia paid in shares to take over Emcon, was valued at 330 million euros (about $423 million currently). Faurecia estimates that the deal makes it the industry's largest supplier in the segment, which it forecasts will deliver 7 percent annual growth for the next decade.
The acquisitions came while the U.S. market was down and Faurecia was flush with cash. Analyst Toulemonde notes that Emcon and Plastal "have been acquired at a reasonable price." He believes there are more acquisitions to come.
The Emcon deal brought Faurecia other new customers in North America, including Toyota, Honda and commercial-vehicle makers Cummins and John Deere.
When it comes to more fuel-efficient and smaller vehicles, Heneka believes Faurecia's French roots give it an advantage here as automakers plan smaller cars to meet fuel economy and emission standards.
"Being based in France, we're a little more used to smaller vehicles," Heneka says. "Americans tend to think of small cars as inferior. What we've been able to do is bring a sense of luxury to what Americans might consider lower-level vehicles."
"We actually have targeted that segment of vehicle as we seek new business," he adds, noting that Faurecia is responsible for the interiors of the new Ford Fiesta globally. "We see the market moving that way, and that's where we want to be with our customers."