FINDLAY — Autoliv Inc. is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of airbags and passenger restraint systems. But the Swedish company has been focused on going beyond just protecting drivers who find themselves in a crash to actively preventing crashes from happening in the first place.
As part of that push, Autoliv in early 2016 formed a joint venture with Japanese brake systems supplier Nissin Kogyo — a company that’s had a major presence in Findlay for a quarter-century.
Less than two years and one big contract later, Autoliv-Nissin Brake has announced plans to invest $60 million in an all-new plant in northwest Findlay that will supply Honda and a yet-to-be named domestic automaker with next-generation braking systems that should better integrate with tomorrow’s autonomous vehicle technology.
“The digital revolution is not only changing the way we design cars today. It is affecting the way we build the factories of the future,” said Stefan Kroenung, the company’s vice president of operations. “The facility we are going to build here will bring progressive manufacturing technology to the Findlay community and enable Autoliv-Nissin to be among the leading suppliers in this industry.”
The firm held a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, where officials said the 216,000-square-foot facility should be up and running by next October.
Initially, the company will bring over about 250 employees who have been working out of leased space in Nissin Brake Ohio’s nearby Findlay plant. Soon after the new plant opens, the company expects to add 30 to 40 more employees. If the contracts keep rolling in, those job numbers could spike even higher.
While the initial job creation is relatively small, local economic development officials say they see this project as the first win in what they hope can be a second wave for Findlay’s already strong automotive sector.
“We just want to stay ahead of the curve,” said Tim Mayle, director of economic development for the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance.
After Honda announced plans to build a major manufacturing center in Marysville, the Findlay area was successful in luring in a number of the companies that would serve as Honda’s suppliers. Today, there are seven automotive parts companies in the Findlay area that directly supply Japanese automakers.
Mayle sees a similar opening in what’s happening now with autonomous vehicle technology.
“With the disruptions in the automotive industry, we have an opportunity in the next three to five years similar to 30 years ago to bring the supply chain in,” he said.
Autoliv-Nissin Brake will produce electronically assisted brakes rather than vacuum-assisted brakes that nearly all new cars and trucks currently have. Those electronic brake-by-wire systems are seen as a crucial part of future autonomous vehicles that rely on computer input, making for better active safety systems.
“It really combines the functionality of the master power braking system and the advanced ABS systems into one box,” said Wilson Schroeder, general manager of Autoliv-Nissin Brake Systems America.
The facility, to be built on Bright Road just south of Owens Community College, is expected to cost about $20 million to build. Another $40 million to $50 million will be spent on tooling and production equipment.
Mr. Schroeder said all of that equipment will be purchased from Ohio-based suppliers.