Behr America has completed the first phase of a multi-million-dollar expansion plan in Dayton, taking full ownership of Behr Dayton Thermal Products to mark the end of a two-year joint venture with DaimlerChrysler Corp.

Behr America president Hans-Joachim Lange said that the company’s investment exceeded $US60 million during the past two years, on pace with the original 2002 plan to spend $100 million to modernise the Dayton manufacturing complex by May 2005.

Lange added that capital spending at the Dayton site is projected to stay on target through the upcoming year. Further investments will occur as Behr Dayton prepares for new business that has been acquired.

“We have booked business of about $US800 million that broadens our customer base and will allow us to stabilise employment at our Dayton facilities,” Lange said.

The announcements were made at a news conference at Behr’s Dayton complex attended by Behr Group CEO Markus Flik and state, county and city officials.

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“Behr Dayton Thermal Products is an important part of Behr’s worldwide operations,” Flik said. “Expansion in the US is a cornerstone of our global strategy.”

“Our goal has been to modernise this facility, introduce new technology and expand its customer base,” the CEO added.

Flik noted that, since 2002, productivity and quality have increased, and the facility’s North American customer base has expanded to include five major vehicle makers, as well as nearly a dozen other automotive customers.

“Behr has been an excellent partner to date,” said Kermit Dorsey, regional director of the IUE-CWA Region Seven, the union which represents Behr Dayton’s hourly-paid employees.

“In 2002, the International Union said it was committed to helping make Behr Dayton Thermal Products successful. We renew that commitment on the company’s second anniversary. We believe Behr’s ownership of the plant has been, and will be, good for our members, their families and friends and the Dayton community.”

Behr currently produces engine-cooling modules, HVAC modules, evaporators, oil coolers, PCV valves, vapour canisters and plastic parts at Dayton. New products expected to be added within the next four years include heater cores and certain sub-modules. Some product lines might be expanded.

The wide-ranging list of improvements at the 1.1-million-square-foot Dayton complex that will be completed by May 2005 include more than $35 million in facility renovations and $65 million in improved production facilities and new manufacturing technology.