Brake components maker Akebono Corp. North America plans to move its headquarters to Elizabethtown, Ky., and refocus its original equipment business strategy on the growing transplant assembly operations of the Japanese and South Korean car makers.
The move and strategy refocus follow the dissolution of a joint venture, Ambrake Corp., with Delphi Corp., which recently sold its 50-percent stake in the venture to Akebono as part of its ongoing financial problems. About 75 corporate, management and sales jobs will move to the Ambrake Corp. site.
``Given the outlook for (General Motors Corp.), it would not be the healthiest strategy for us to be so reliant on them for our future,'' said Carl Lay, Akebono's vice president for human resources.
``We still have a good business with them, but we believe we need to be here in Kentucky to be closer to those customers who are nearby and have growing business with us-Toyota and Nissan in Tennessee and Honda in Ohio and Alabama,'' he said.
Akebono executives in Japan said the U.S. firm also will focus more on the growing Korean auto base in North America. Ambrake is not yet selling to Hyundai Motor Co. or Kia Motors Corp., which plans to build its first U.S. auto assembly plant in Georgia.
Ambrake's original strategy was for Akebono to deliver brake business from the new Japanese transplants while Delphi delivered GM business. That worked for nearly 20 years.
Ambrake's sales are flat at about $325 million a year, with most of North America's high-volume vehicles as customers.
Akebono's departure from Detroit and the GM orbit could help Ambrake on another front: selling to Ford Motor Co. Akebono has racked up sales from Ford, supplying the Explorer sport-utility and other vehicles, but it had to establish a separate Kentucky subsidiary called Amak Brake L.L.C., as a unit of Akebono Corp. North America, to do so.
``Ford preferred not to buy directly from a Delphi-affiliated company,'' Mr. Lay said.
Now that the entire U.S. operations are wholly owned by Akebono, he said, the firm can consolidate and operate in North America as a single operation. Combined sales will be about $600 million this year, and key personnel will be able to shift among the business units as needed.