Sales: SEK 38.14 billion ($5.3 billion) (2003)
Stock Exchanges: New York Chicago Stockholm
Ticker Symbol: ALV
NAIC: 334519 Other Measuring and Controlling Device Manufacturing; 336399 All Other Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturing; 421120 Motor Vehicle Supplies and New Parts Wholesalers
Autoliv, Inc. is the largest producer of automotive safety equipment in the world. Its product lineup, manufactured at facilities in nearly 30 countries, includes air bags, seatbelts, child seats, and electronics. The company estimates these products save 20,000 lives a year. The company was formed by the 1997 merger of Sweden's Autoliv AB with U.S. air bag pioneer Morton ASP.
Autoliv, Inc. is a spinoff of the Swedish company Autoliv AB, an early pioneer of seatbelts for automobiles in the 1950s. The company developed retractor belts and air bag inflators in the late 1960s.
About the same time, another company, ASP, was pioneering air bag technology in the United States. (Autoliv would merge with ASP in 1997.) Autoliv began testing air bags in the United States in the late 1970s.
Gränges Weda AB, a manufacturer of seatbelt retractors, bought Autoliv AB in 1974. Electrolux acquired Gränges in 1980, and renamed it Electrolux Autoliv four years later.
Over the next decade and a half, Autoliv acquired related businesses in Sweden (Klippan Italia S.p.A.), Great Britain (Britax Overseas Ltd.; it also had operations in Germany and Australia), Germany (Autoflug Sicherheitstechnik GmbH), and India (IFB Industries). It also formed joint ventures with partners in Japan (Fuji Kiko, NSK), South Korea (Suskan Life Ind), and France (SNPE).
The company developed an automatic seatbelt in the late 1980s to satisfy a U.S. mandate for passive restraint systems.
Expanding Air Bag Technology in the 1990s
Autoliv began producing its own air bag inflators in bulk in 1991. It introduced the first non-azide inflator the next year and also began producing its own air bag electronics. A number of developments in side airbags were rolled out during the 1990s.
Autoliv produced nearly 30 million seatbelt units and more than one million air bag systems in 1993. By this time, Autoliv had manufacturing operations in ten countries concentrated in Europe, which accounted for 91 percent of sales. It also was involved in more than a dozen joint ventures. The company had 4,400 employees. Seatbelt products accounted for three-quarters of revenues, which rose 51 percent in 1993 to SEK 5.3 billion. Autoliv was Europe's largest manufacturer of auto safety equipment.
Toward the end of 1994, Autoliv opened a new plant in Sweden to produce hybrid gas generators for air bags. They were less expensive to manufacture and were safer, since they deployed in two stages, the first of which corrected the occupant's sitting position.
Autoliv continued to create global partnerships, forming a seatbelt joint venture in the Philippines with Qualibrand, a local company, and Autobelt of Malaysia in 1995. At about the same time, Autoliv launched a joint venture with Nanjing Honguang Airborne Equipment to produce steel safety belt parts in China. Also in 1995, the company acquired 49 percent of Isodelta SA of France, Europe's fourth leading steering wheels producer. A pair of Dutch auto parts suppliers, Hammarverken of Vaxjo and Hassleholms Automotive, were acquired from United Parts Group NV in 1996.
1997 Morton ASP Merger
The company went public on the Stockholm stock market on June 9, 1994, as Autoliv AB. It was one of the country's most successful flotations of the year. Three years later Autoliv AB merged with U.S. air bag pioneer Morton ASP to form Autoliv, Inc. Morton International, based in Chicago, was selling its auto safety division to concentrate on its salt and chemicals business.
The new company was the world's largest air bag producer, with sales of SEK 20 billion ($3 billion) and 15,000 employees. Although incorporated in the United States, the company's headquarters were located in Sweden. Former Autoliv AB President and CEO Gunnar Bark was the new company's first chairman, and ASP President Fred Musone was named chief executive officer.
Europe still accounted for more than half of sales. Autoliv had acquired a leading European steering wheel manufacturer, France's Isodelta, in 1995. This opened a new market to Autoliv and allowed it to begin producing steering wheels with integrated air bags.
In the late 1990s, Autoliv was working on ways to adjust the deployment pattern of air bags to reduce the potential for them causing passenger injury.
Globalization for the New Millennium
In 1999, Autoliv acquired a 50 percent interest in Norma AS, an Estonian factory that had been making seatbelts since 1971. Before then, it had produced toys, noted London's Financial Times. Norma had revenues of EEK 482.7 million ($31.6 million) in 1998; nearly 90 percent of its production went to Russian and Eastern European car manufacturers. Autoliv moved some of its steering wheel operations to Tunisia in 1999 and also opened a $10 million plant in Turkey.
Autoliv bought the seatbelt operations of Japanese auto parts supplier NSK in 2000, paying an initial $72 million plus a later performance-based bonus. The unit had sales of about $300 million a year and operations in the United States, Mexico, and Thailand as well as Japan, where Autoliv had until then not made its presence felt. Autoliv announced a joint venture with Korean parts supplier Mando Corporation in November 2000. Autoliv also had operations in the growing Chinese auto market. It formed a new joint venture in northern China in 2002. The next year, the company bought out Japanese steering wheel manufacturer Nippon Steering Industries, which had been created as a joint venture between its own subsidiary Autoliv-Isumi and Japanese parts maker KIW. In 2003, Autoliv expanded its Malaysian plant to 14,500 square feet.
Autoliv made an important U.S. acquisition in 2000, buying OEA of Arapahoe County, Colorado, for $306 million (including $100 million in assumed debt). OEA produced propellant-actuated devices used to deploy air bags. It had been founded in 1957 as Ordnance Engineering Associates Inc. by Turkish immigrant Ahmed Kafadar. At the time of the acquisition, OEA had sales of about $250 million a year and 1,700 employees around the world; its shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Autoliv had been one of OEA's largest customers.
Autoliv's revenues were $4.1 billion in 2000 with net income of $170 million. The company began shrinking its workforce in the United States and Europe as it shifted production to lower-cost areas. An air bag cushion plant in Utah, where the company employed 5,000 people, was relocated to Mexico in 2001. After losing 10 percent of its Utah workforce, Autoliv was still the state's largest manufacturer, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The OEA plant in Colorado closed in 2003. Autoliv also began to reduce the number of countries in which it had operations, more than 30 at the time.
Visteon Corporation, a spinoff of Ford Motor Company, sold Autoliv its Restraint Electronics air bag sensor business for $25 million in 2002. The unit employed 1,000 workers in Ontario and 200 engineers in Michigan. The next year, Autoliv acquired Nippon Steering Industries and the remainder of shares in European air bag inflator supplier Livbag.
Autoliv's Utah operations received a boost when a group of ten automakers committed to install head-curtain air bags in half of their models by the model year 2008. These air bags, designed to reduce head injuries in side-impact collisions, were already available as an option; Autoliv sold less than ten million units in 2001.
Revenues were $5.3 billion (SEK 38.1 billion) in 2003. Analysts were impressed that the company managed 19 percent revenue growth even as U.S. vehicle production fell 2 percent. Air bags and related products accounted for nearly 70 percent of sales, with seatbelts and associated items making up the remainder.
Although cars today are much safer than 20 years ago, thousands of people are killed every year in traffic accidents, and nearly five million are seriously injured. Significant challenges remain to enhance the protection of people in cars and as pedestrians.
At Autoliv, our business mission is to "develop and manufacture systems worldwide for the mitigation of injuries to automobile occupants and pedestrians, and for the avoidance of traffic accidents." In partnership with our customers we shall make today's safe cars even safer tomorrow.
We have established such cooperation for new safety technologies with most of the major car manufacturers. It is based on the in-depth knowledge we gained by pioneering seatbelt technologies in the 1950s and '60s; airbag technologies in the 1970s and '80s; and side airbags in the 1990s.
Through our continued commitment of investing in safety R&D (we shall invest over $200 million this year alone) it is not surprising that Autoliv has become the global market leader in automotive safety and the preferred safety specialist for car manufacturers around the world.
We have achieved a lot but not yet enough. It's just as true as ever: your safety is our concern.
Autoliv ASP announced an expansion of its Whitley County, Indiana facilities in July 2004. The project was expected to more than triple employment there, adding 678 jobs by 2009. The new capacity was earmarked for producing inflatable curtains, or side-impact air bags.
Night vision had been one project in development since 2000. It was expected to hit the market in 2006. The company also was working on an automatic accident notification system, as well as air bag systems for the hood and windscreen areas of cars to protect pedestrians in the event of an accident.
Autoliv AB; Autoliv ASP, Inc.
- Autoliv AB introduces an automotive seatbelt.
- ASP pioneers air bag technology.
- Gränges Weda AB acquires Autoliv AB.
- Electrolux acquires Gränges.
- Gränges Weda is renamed Electrolux Autoliv.
- The company goes public as Autoliv AB; Electrolux sells shares.
- Autoliv AB merges with Morton ASP to form Autoliv, Inc.
- NSK's seatbelt business is acquired.
- Ford spinoff Visteon Restraint Electronics is acquired.
- Nippon Steering Industries is acquired.
Delphi Corporation; Honeywell International; Key Safety Systems, Inc.; Takata Corporation; TRW Automotive Holdings Corporation.
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—Frederick C. Ingram