Federal-Mogul Corp. is establishing the internal and external collaboration it needs to begin selling its Anco wiper blades to auto makers in North America.
The manufacturer also hopes to transfer some of its magic in the North American replacement sector to its Champion wiper unit in Europe.
After debating the possible divestiture of its European wiper, spark plug and ignition products business earlier this year, Federal-Mogul decided to retain the Champion line and aggressively develop it in tandem with complementary U.S. units. The firm also is in discussions with suppliers of wiper motors and linkages with the aim of providing complete wiper systems worldwide.
Collaboration between Anco and Champion will allow Federal-Mogul to develop advanced technology and put in place a new global manufacturing strategy, said Joseph Felicelli, senior vice president of aftermarket operations.
From the time Anco was part of Cooper Industries Inc.'s Cooper Automotive division until recently, both units developed their own proprietary compounds, mechanical designs and manufacturing processes, with very little, if any, collaboration, Mr. Felicelli said.
Their end customers are quite different. Anco, which Federal-Mogul claims is the brand leader in the North American replacement market with a 41-percent share, has minimal OE presence on commercial vehicles and none on passenger vehicles. Champion, on the other hand, has passenger and light truck fitments in the European OE market but only a 10-percent share of the replacement market contributing about $210 million in sales, according to Federal-Mogul.
``Even though we're the No. 3 player in Europe, we're not far from No. 2,'' Mr. Felicelli said. ``The market there is somewhat fragmented.''
Federal-Mogul's biggest aftermarket competitor in the U.S., Trico Products Corp., also claims it is No. 1 in the North American replacement market for wipers. It sells product under both the Trico brand and several private labels, said Jim Shaul, vice president of global business.
Federal-Mogul believes the combination of its compounding expertise in North America along with its strength in passenger/light truck OE wiper design at its Druento, Italy, technical center will help it gain a global leadership position on all fronts.
``We would like to be able to demonstrate to the original equipment manufacturers that the Federal-Mogul wiper organization is capable of producing advanced product that would make us a good choice for any vehicle application,'' Mr. Felicelli said.
First, Federal-Mogul will establish technology and manufacturing links. ``And then we would be capable of approaching customers and saying we have a viable product for them,'' he said.
To compete with its closest wiper systems competitors-Trico in North America and Valeo S.A. and Robert Bosch Corp. in Europe-Federal-Mogul will look to forge more global partnerships. A year ago, the company teamed up with Czech automotive supplier Pal Praha A.S. to provide complete wiper systems to European automobile manufacturers.
``Certainly we are interested in working with people that have electrical and system design responsibility,'' Mr. Felicelli said.
The company expects to make substantial investments in the product line during the next few years. In line with that, Federal-Mogul recently installed a new extrusion process at its Michigan City, Ind., plant where Anco wiper blades are produced.
``It gives us more capability in terms of the kinds of materials we can use as well as greater manufacturing efficiency,'' Mr. Felicelli said.