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Martinrea plans TTC trolley bid

Joins with Voss Group to pursue assembly deal

Nov 15, 2007 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Martinrea International Inc. has teamed up with a German vehicle manufacturer to make a joint bid for a major contract from the Toronto Transit Commission.

Fred Jaekel, Martinrea’s chief executive officer, confirmed yesterday that the company and the Voss Group will pursue a contract for hundreds of TTC trolley cars in the near future.

“We intend to make a strong bid,” Jaekel told analysts after the company released third-quarter results.

The city has not issued a request for proposals yet, but Martinrea said the first part will call for about 220 trolley cars, with more in subsequent phases.

Vaughan-based Martinrea is primarily an auto-parts supplier but said it is open to opportunities in other industries.

“We’re not purely dedicated to auto,” said Jaekel, a former top manager at industry powerhouse Magna International. “We’re here to make money for our shareholders. We are always looking at anything that makes sense.”

Martinrea already makes frame structures for Orion Bus Industries in Mississauga. If the German and local companies win the contract, it would mean final assembly and production of some parts here for Martinrea and an unidentified number of jobs, according to Jaekel.

Voss is an international manufacturer of complex parts, with operations in several countries, including the United States. It supplies the transit, auto and heavy-machinery industries.

Meanwhile, Martinrea officials said they don’t expect much expansion in Canada in the near term because of the strong dollar and declining output by three of the company’s main customers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Martinrea chair Rob Wildeboer said the company will locate its parts operations near assembly plants, and more of them are now in the U.S. and Mexico.

Transportation costs have soared in recent years, so locating near assembly plants is necessary, according to company officials.

Wildeboer suggested some Martinrea plants may be closed or consolidated in Canada in the next year. At the same time, the company is pursuing acquisitions elsewhere, he added.