Auburn Hills — Nexteer Automotive celebrated the opening of its new headquarters here Thursday, after the supplier of steering and driveline technology moved its base operations from Buena Vista Township in Saginaw County to be closer to customers.
The Chinese-owned supplier said about 150 employees are housed in the headquarters to support corporate functions for the global company with 13,000 employees, including more than 5,000 in Michigan.
Nexteer spent about $4 million on its new headquarters, a 52,000-square-foot leased space. The site, formerly used by TI Automotive and built in 2002, hosted a crowd of industry and government leaders, Nexteer customers and employees who gathered for a champagne toast.
Mark Decker, vice president and chief human resources officer, said at least one-third of its headquarters employees are new. Many employees accepted transfers from Saginaw County and more than a dozen are using a company shuttle to and from Saginaw County.
“We view this, the establishment of our global headquarters, as an invaluable opportunity to establish a centralized hub for growth and innovation,” Decker said.
Nexteer announced the headquarters move in early 2015. The supplier operates six manufacturing plants in Buena Vista Township, where its global engineering and technology center and North American division offices remain.
“So why did we come to Auburn Hills?” Mike Richardson, senior vice president, executive board director and chief strategy officer asked. “Just look around you. We’re in the heart of our core industry, our customers are neighbors. Collaboration is natural and timely. Suppliers visit more easily. And key industry groups will more readily hear our voice.”
Most of the work space is open, designed for collaboration. The office is technologically advanced with many ways for employees to connect with others at other global locations.
“This space was intentionally designed for the future of Nexteer,” Decker said.
Nexteer is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It serves more than 50 customers globally from 21 manufacturing plants, five regional engineering centers and 11 customer service centers in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Nexteer also is creating a technology incubator group at its offices in Troy, where it will focus its work on advanced driver assistance systems.
Nexteer makes electronic power steering systems, hydraulic steering systems, steering columns, driveline parts and advanced driver-assist systems and autonomous technologies. Customers include BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., PSA Peugeot Citroen, Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and automakers in India and China.
Last year, the company posted revenue of $3.4 billion and it has $24 billion of business booked and ready to launch over the next four to six years, Richardson said.
The supplier previously was part of General Motors’ Saginaw Steering Gear division. In 1999, it became part of Delphi Corp. when Delphi was spun off from GM. When Delphi emerged from bankruptcy, GM agreed in October 2009 to buy back its steering plants. It sold Nexteer in 2010 to Pacific Century Motors for $450 million.
Since 2010, Nexteer has invested nearly $500 million and has added 2,000 new jobs in Michigan since China’s AVIC Automotive became a controlling shareholder.
Guibin Zhao, chairman and executive board director and CEO of Nexteer, said he sees Nexteer as not a “Chinese company” but a “global company.” He said Nexteer remains committed to Michigan.
In December, Nexteer’s UAW-represented workforce of more than 3,200 workers rejected a deal with the automaker and staged a 20-hour strike that caused GM and Fiat Chrysler to cancel shifts due to parts shortages. The union membership later voted to ratify a second contract that included raises.