PULASKI, TN – The future appears bright for Magneti Marelli, as the 94-year-old global supplier expects to accelerate a recent growth binge that saw its global lighting sales swell 13% to €2.1 billion ($2.7 billion) last year.
The latest evidence of its growth curve comes in September, when a newly minted lighting production plant here representing a $54 million investment and soon covering 213,000 sq.-ft. (20,000 sq.-m) is expected to start hitting its output stride.
Production at the Giles County plant, which currently employs 90 people but could reach 850 workers within the next four years, should grow to 5 million units annually as soon as 2016.
The Milan-based unit of Fiat Group also supplies global OEMs with instrument clusters; electronic-control units; infotainment platforms and telematics boxes; powertrain hardware such as injectors, manifolds and throttle bodies; and exhaust and suspension systems.
In addition, Magneti Marelli will begin supplying parts within the next three years to the hybrid-electric vehicle market based on systems it validated in motorsports competition, another key business area of the diverse but under-the-radar global parts supplier.
“We’ve been part of the automobile landscape for a long time, but our story is just coming out,” says James Rosseau, country manager-Magneti Marelli North America and president and CEO-Magneti Marelli Shock Absorbers North America.
Despite its size and broad business portfolio, Magneti Marelli until recently has not promoted itself much beyond communicating with customers. However, the supplier turned up in headlines last year as a potential divestiture for Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne as he looks to raise cash to buy a bigger stake in U.S. auto maker Chrysler.
Marchionne since has said the Italian auto maker does not need extra capital.
Here in Pulaski, where Marchionne last month helped open the plant with a Father’s Day celebration for friends and family of the earliest hires, Magneti Marelli executives say the focus is on growing the North American business on lighting’s new role as a source of design distinction.
“We are moving into a technologically differentiated market,” says Andrea Stella, manager-research and development, Automotive Lighting North America at Magneti Marelli.
The facility currently supplies halogen, bi-Xenon and light-emitting-diode daytime running light headlamps to the Jeep Cherokee as its sole customer. Plans call for the plant to produce adaptive and smart-lighting systems, as well.
Assembly plants building products for Volkswagen, Nissan and Toyota also are nearby. Magneti Marelli’s expansion plans at Pulaski are predicated on swiftly adding to its roster of customers looking to make design statements with lighting, especially through breakout LED technology.
The Dodge Dart’s “Ring of Fire” LED rear lamps are one such statement, as are the “Light Blades” contained in the headlamps of the Cadillac XTS. And look for a new forward lighting treatment for the next-generation Chevy Camaro – business Magneti Marelli took away from a competitor.
Other examples of Magneti Marelli’s work appear on Mercedes and BMW vehicles, most notably the all-LED adaptive headlamps for the Mercedes CLS and the new signature rear lights for BMW 7-Series sedans also using all-LED technology.
Fiat remains the supplier’s main customer, with its parent comprising 37% of its overall business.