Troy, Mich.-based automotive systems
and cockpit modules supplier Collins & Aikman Corp. announced it will exit the automotive
fabrics business, pending approval by the US Bankruptcy Court. The action will impact approximately
1,200 employees in three fabric manufacturing plants in Roxboro, N.C., one in Farmville, N.C., and
a laminating plant in El Paso, Texas. It will be implemented over a transitional period depending
on when the business can be transferred to other suppliers.
The company is seeking a buyer for the El Paso operation, but it has abandoned efforts to
sell the rest of the fabrics business, according to David A. Youngman, vice president,
communications. He said the business has been unprofitable, and a turnaround is not projected.
“Despite an aggressive cost-cutting program, the business is projected to continue to be
unprofitable,” Youngman said, noting the company has invested heavily in technologies to produce
fabric styles, such as velour, that no longer are popular with consumers. In addition, he said, “
Sales have dropped from more than $300 million in 2004 to a projected $150 million in 2006, and we
have an extensive amount of excess capacity.”
Other factors in the business’s misfortunes include escalating raw material prices and the
transfer of manufacturing offshore, according to Gerald Jones, executive vice president, Fabrics.
The company’s automotive carpets business remains profitable, and is not included in the
decision, Youngman said.
“Our other automotive operations still offer value-added products. For example, there are
three automotive carpet plants in North Carolina and others elsewhere. That is one of our core
competencies, along with injection-molded panels and other products,” he said.
Collins & Aikman filed voluntary petitions to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy
protection in May 2005. The company plans to complete the shutdown of its Fabrics business before
the end of September 2006, when it expects to emerge from bankruptcy. Youngman said the company
could emerge as a stand-alone company, or it could be sold. Among those parties who have expressed
interest in the company, he said, is New York City-based financier and chairman of the Greensboro,
N.C.-based International Textile Group, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., whose recently formed International
Automotive Components Group has acquired Collins & Aikman’s European businesses.