West Michigan manufacturers have taken a disciplined approach to research and development spending throughout the sustained period of economic recovery and growth.
Despite a looming plateau in auto sales and automakers overwhelmingly betting on the same pieces of the market, savvy suppliers could still realize major opportunities in the coming years. Those opportunities come as automotive sales hit nearly 17.3 million units for 2018, with trucks and SUVs up 8 percent, accounting for around 11.8 million units. Meanwhile, passenger car sales dipped 13 percent to 5.5 million units.
Whether the West Michigan manufacturing industry continues on an ongoing growth trend in 2019 or veers into a contraction remains uncertain. Economist Paul Isely, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University, uses automotive, furniture, agriculture, and “amazingly nowadays” aerospace manufacturing to find the pulse of where the region’s economy is headed in the coming months and years.
The 2019 forecast for the automotive industry remains steady, although sales are expected to experience “a little bit of a step down” to 16.8 million units compared to an expected 17.1 million units this year, according to Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis at IHS Markit. The big cloud over the industry currently hinges on tariffs and trade deals, specifically the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. Wall expects the USMCA to get enacted in some form, even though he does expect to see “some adjustments on the margins.”
MANISTEE — A Northern Michigan-based manufacturer of electronics and electrical assemblies has been acquired by a portfolio company of New Water Capital Partners LP of Boca Raton, Fla.
NEWAYGO — A West Michigan Tier I automotive supplier is investing $45 million into a 175,000-square-foot facility expansion designed to improve workflow and efficiency.
As the new owner of Blough Inc., Sean Larkin plans to maintain the company’s roots as a metal finisher in the middle of “farming country.”
A turbulent period full of major disruptions for the automotive industry has translated into business doubling for Conway MacKenzie Inc., a Birmingham, Mich.-based turnaround firm.
ACME — After an extended period of growth, vehicle sales have started to cool at a time when industry-wide uncertainty is hampering manufacturers’ optimism.
So far this year, West Michigan-based automotive suppliers have endured the fallout from supply chain disruptions, wrestled with rising costs related to steel and aluminum tariffs and struggled to fill open positions at their factories.