202 quai de Clichy, BP 77
Company Strategy: Building on their skill as metallurgists of aluminum, the men and women of Montupet are constantly developing their skills and contributing to the technology of the process.
Montupet S.A. is one of Europe's leading manufacturers of aluminum-based components for the automotive and other industries. The company, based in Clichy, France, focuses on a number of core product lines, including cylinder heads, aluminum wheel rims, engine blocks, and other engine parts including intake manifolds, fuel-injection part housing, and cylinder heads; and braking system components, including the master cylinder, divider, and ABS body. The company also produces structural components, such as chassis--replacing the traditional cast iron and steel components with aluminum alloys permits automobile manufacturers to build lighter vehicles. Montupet counts among its customers Renault, accounting for more than 25 percent of sales; Ford and Volvo, which provide more than 20 percent of sales; General Motors (GM) and Saab, which add another 17 percent of sales; PSA, accounting for 16 percent of sales; and other car makers including Audi and Volkswagen. Montupet also produces components for other industries, including aerospace and heavy vehicles. The company operates three production plants in France, and plants in Spain, Canada, Northern Ireland, and Mexico. Montupet also operates its own tooling business, which enables it to design and fabricate its production machinery in collaboration with its customers. The company, which posted EUR 434 million ($500 million) in sales in 2003, is listed on the Euronext Paris stock exchange. Stephane Magnan is company CEO.
Early 20th-Century Parts Producer
The development of the automobile industry began in earnest at the dawn of the 20th century with the invention of new technologies, production techniques, and materials. By 1883, De Dion and Bouton had built the first automobile made of metal, replacing the wood parts that had been common features on the earliest automobiles. The demand for components inspired the development of an entire support industry, in France and elsewhere. Among the many new companies that appeared at the end of the 19th century was a small foundry business in Nogent-sur-Oise, just north of Paris.
Founded by Pierre Montupet, the Nogent foundry at first focused on producing components based on copper alloys. By the end of the century, however, Montupet had begun experimenting with a relatively new metal type: aluminum. Large-scale production of aluminum metal had become possible through the development of the electrolytic smelting process introduced in the late 1880s. France's rich bauxite deposits--a primary source of aluminum--gave Montupet a steady and widely available source of raw materials.
Montupet began exploring means of adapting aluminum for use in automobiles. Into the new century, the company began developing new alloys to meet the steadily increasing mechanical demands of the new generations of larger and more powerful engines. Montupet was soon joined by a number of other companies that began producing aluminum components for France's buoyant automobile industry. Among these was the Debard, founded by Paul Debard, an industrialist based in Paris. In 1905, Debard built an aluminum foundry in Chateauroux, in the Indre region south of Paris, and began producing components for the automobile industry as well as for the aviation and marine industries.
By the 1930s, Montupet had perfected its aluminum alloys, helping it become a major producer of automobile components, and especially engine parts, to the French automobile industry. More than a simple supplier, Montupet became a primary partner in the development of many of France's most popular cars. For example, in 1953, Citroen debuted its famed DS series--featuring components designed in conjunction with and produced by Montupet, including the arms for the DS's revolutionary air suspension system.
Expansion in the 1960s
The 1960s marked a new era for the French automobile industry. The booming economy had made purchasing automobiles accessible for a wider range of the population. The automotive industry responded by producing a broad array of models and automotive classes. To meet the rising demand for its components, Montupet began preparing for its own expansion. In 1966, the company made its first acquisition, that of Société de Fonderie d'Aluminum et d'Alliages Légers. To fund the acquisition and to further its own expansion, Montupet went public that year. The public offering also marked the gradual exit of the Montupet family from company ownership.
By the 1970s, Montupet was already one of France's leaders in its component category. A major rival appeared in Dedard, which had been acquired by another company, Virax, in 1964. Originally specialized in the manufacture of machine tools and industrial pumps, Virax had begun a diversification drive during the 1960s. In 1970, Virax moved the Dedard plant from its original location to a new, larger facility outside of Chateauroux. The 20,000-square-meter plant became one of the largest and most modern aluminum foundries in France. The new facility became known as Fonderie de la Precision-Virax.
By the late 1970s, however, Virax decided to abandon the automotive market. In 1977, it sold its Fonderie de la Precision to Montupet, which then restructured, creating a new holding company with the name of Société Industrielle et Financière Montupet. Both the company's original foundry operation and the former Virax foundry were placed under the holding firm that year. The following year, Montupet created a new sales division overseeing marketing and distribution for both subsidiaries. Then, in 1980, Fonderie de la Precision was fully merged into Fonderie Montupet.
By then, Montupet had launched a new expansion branch. In 1978, the company joined with Ford to begin development of the first aluminum cylinder heads for the North American market. These were then used in constructing the successful Ford Escort and other models. The collaboration with Ford led Montupet to begin planning a wider entry into North America.
Montupet continued to focus on expansion into the 1980s. In 1981, the company diversified its business, acquiring wheel rim manufacturer Sudrad, which became Sudrad Montupet. That year, also, the company acquired a stake in Aluminoy y Aleaciones S.A., or Alumalsa, founded in 1946 and located in Saragosa, Spain. Montupet continued to build up its share of Alumalsa, acquiring majority control in 1987. That year marked a new restructuring of the group, as a result of a management buyout led by Stephane Magnan. After merging the Fonderies Montupet into its holding parent, the company changed its name to Montupet S.A.
International Leader in the New Century
Montupet had meanwhile been scouting for new international opportunities. By 1988, the company had settled on Canada for its first expansion into the U.S. automobile component market, and construction began on a new foundry in Riverie Beaudette that year. The company also opened a sales office close to the heart of the U.S. automotive industry, in Michigan.
In 1989, Montupet launched a new international operation when it took over the Belfast factory built by the failed DeLorean company in the early 1980s. The new facility helped Montupet meet the rising demand, and placed it in a strong position as car manufacturers prepared the launch of new engine designs for the 1990s. As part of that effort, the company also acquired its own tooling business, BS Tooling, also in Northern Ireland, in order to be able to design and build machinery specifically for customers' products.
In the early 1990s, Montupet sought to step up its presence in North America. Already considered the European leader, Montupet entered merger talks with Teksid, a subsidiary of Italy's Fiat. Teksid complemented Montupet, adding not only a strong European position but also serving as one of North America's largest components suppliers. Yet, as the global automotive industry entered an extended crisis, the two sides were forced to call off merger talks, explaining that the resulting combination would prove unprofitable.
The mid-1990s saw a return to growth in the automotive market. Montupet took advantage of the expanding market, signing up a new customer, General Motors, to produce aluminum cylinder block castings for the Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro V-8 engines, starting in 1997. The following year, Montupet received another major new order, this time to produce cylinder heads for the Ford Motor Company. As part of that purchase, Montupet agreed to build a new foundry in Torreon, Mexico.
The expanding automotive market in Europe enabled Montupet to increase its capacity at home as well, and in 2000 the company opened a new facility in Laigneville, near the original Nogent foundry. The company's next expansion effort came as a result of a request from the Ford Motor Company, which asked it to take over operations of Ford's own production plant in Northern Ireland in order to produce up to 500,000 cylinder heads per year for Ford's own Explorer model. The new site was then renamed Calcast.
Into the 2000s, Montupet found itself burdened by debt and by a new slump in automobile demand. The company began a new restructuring effort to cut costs amid slipping revenues, which dropped some 8.5 percent over 2003 to EUR 435 million ($500 million). Nonetheless, the company remained confident for the future, in part because it expected to launch production of several new series of components for DaimlerChrysler and Renault, among others, for 2005.
Principal Subsidiaries: ALUMALSA (Spain); CALCAST Ltd. (Northern Ireland); MFT Sarl; MFT-MONTUPET Snc (Belgium); MONTIAC SA de CV (Mexico); MONTUPET GmbH (Germany); MONTUPET Inc. (U.S.A.); MONTUPET Ltd. (Canada); MONTUPET UK Ltd.
Principal Competitors: Dana Corporation; Textron Inc.; TRW Automotive; Grundfos GmbH; American Standard Companies Inc.; FASA Renault S.A; Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa; Eaton Corporation.