Vinnie Johnson’s Piston Group acquires Takata division

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Metro Detroit auto supplier Piston Group, owned by former Detroit Piston turned businessman Vinnie Johnson, on Wednesday announced the acquisition of Takata Corp.-subsidiary Irvin Automotive Products Inc.

Pontiac-based Irvin manufactures interior trim and seating materials, including seat covers, headrests, cargo shades, center and door armrests, sun visors and bolsters. The company has annual sales of $500 million, with roughly 7,000 employees at its Pontiac headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Del Rio, Texas; Acuna, Mexico, and Sabinas, Mexico.

The acquisition is expected to boost Piston Group’s sales to a company record of more than $1.8 billion in 2016. However, financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Irvin’s sale has been a year in the making, with the company approaching Piston Group about eight months ago, according to Irvin President Joseph Finn.

“I think Takata was seeking out potential suitors that would allow Irvin to grow and prosper on its own without just getting absorbed by a bigger company,” he told The Detroit News on Wednesday. He said Irvin was the largest non-core business the company was looking to sell outside of its core business.

The embattled Japanese-based company faces increasing compensation claims and fines related to its record recall campaign of 70 million inflators in cars made by 17 manufacturers.

Takata appointed an external steering committee in February to draw up a restructuring plan for the company, which is potentially facing billions of dollars in recall costs, the majority of which are being borne by automakers, according to Bloomberg. The five-member group, which is negotiating with carmakers on the sharing of the recall costs, hired Lazard Ltd. to look for investors.

A Takata spokesperson did not immediately respond for comment.

Irvin will operate as a separate company within the Piston Group. Finn along with his management team will continue to lead the company, with plans to grow its North American employee headcount of 1,700 — 135 people in Pontiac — in the coming years under Piston Group.

“We’re going to continue to add staff of people to support our business growth as needed,” Finn said, declining to speculate the number of new employees the company could hire.

Johnson, Piston Group chairman and CEO, said overall the company “continues to look for opportunities” with automakers and automotive suppliers to bring more jobs to Michigan.

The acquisition is part of the Johnson’s plan to expand the Redford Township-based private automotive supplier into a “global supply-chain leader.”

“We hope to continue to grow,” Johnson, Piston Group chairman and CEO, said. “With this acquisition, it gives us a little bit more diversity.”

Irvin also supplies non-automotive customers, including the aviation industry.

Piston Group’s companies produce a variety of automotive parts and systems for automakers such as Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and the Detroit Three. With the acquisition, the company’s employment will increase to more than 8,000 — up from about 1,300, including 700 automotive workers.

Johnson said Piston Group is projecting to be a $2.6-billion company by 2018.

“We’ve been doing things right,” Johnson said. “The auto industry, in my opinion, is getting super, super competitive and the OEMs are looking for really good suppliers that they can count and depend on. I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re one of those suppliers.”

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Twitter: @MikeWayland