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American Axle evolves into global supply powerhouse

Keywords: Tags  American Axle & Manufacturing, General Motors, David Dauch, new vehicle platforms, Jaguar Land Rover, Volkswagen, Daimler, Mercedes Benz corinna petry

CHICAGO — When General Motors Co. spun off its axle/powertrain business to American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. in 1994, the Detroit-based automaker accounted for 97 to 98 percent of the unit’s sales.

Today, GM accounts for roughly 70 percent of American Axle’s sales, and that needle will move down to 60 percent this year and to 50 percent by 2015, president and chief executive officer David C. Dauch said at Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.’s 2013 New York Auto Summit. He said his company had diversified by geography, product and customer base.

American Axle, which executed 34 vehicle program launches last year and has 27 scheduled this year, expects revenue to increase to $3.25 billion this year from $2.93 billion in 2012, and reach $4 billion in 2015.

The Detroit-based manufacturer boasts a $1.25-billion backlog of new business through 2015. About 60 percent of American Axle’s backlog is in North America, with 30 percent in Asia, 7 percent in South America and 3 percent in Europe. "Fifty percent of this backlog is non-GM business, and we’re quoting over $500 million of business right now, of which 95 percent is non-GM business," Dauch told analysts at the summit.

Newer global customers include Jaguar Land Rover Plc in Britain, Volkswagen AG in Brazil and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit in China. Opportunities on the European continent are somewhat limited because automakers there have in-house capacity and union workers who make the components American Axle manufactures, but European automakers do want to localize their sourcing abroad, Dauch said.

Arguably the biggest launch for American Axle in North America is GM’s K2XX pickup platform, which will replace the GMT900 and make its debut in the Chevrolet Silverado.

"We’re very excited about the K2XX. GM has put a lot of investment into (the new platform)," Dauch said. "We’re involved on the powertrain side. We have had to upgrade our axle and driveline systems to support the greater horsepower, plus the torque and load-carrying capabilities that go with that."

Production on the K2XX is set to begin during the second quarter, starting with light-duty pickups produced at GM’s Fort Wayne, Ind., and Silao, Mexico, assembly plants. "The balance of the launch will happen with the heavy-duty and the utilities later this year, into next year," Dauch said.

American Axle has prepared its supply chain for 1 million units but could flex its capacity higher as needed, Dauch said. "We see success with the K2XX being very beneficial for (the company)."

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