Born on March 1, 2008 with a pedigree that includes General Motors and Delphi, Inteva Products is a new name among Tier One suppliers. But its 90 years of production experience make it an old soul in automotive.
“The best analogy, which our president uses sometimes, is we’re like birthing an 18-year-old,” jokes Gerard Roose, Inteva’s VP sales, marketing, planning, and communications, “because we are a new name, that’s absolutely right, but we’re not a new company. We’ve been around for a long time.”
Through name and ownership changes, as well as some tweaks to its portfolio, Inteva can trace its origins to GM’s Inland Division. One constant that goes back to those days is material development, when as part of GM, the group formulated and compounded its own polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
That heritage was on display last November, when Inteva was recognized at the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE; Brookfield, CT) Automotive Innovation Awards, winning the material category for a specially formulated thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO)/thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) slush molded into an instrument panel (IP) skin. The first TPO/TPE slush-molded IP manufactured in North America, it’s featured on Saab’s 9-7X SUV.
At those awards, most entrants listed individual OEMs as well as system, component, material, and tool suppliers. When Inteva took the dais, it did so as the system, component, and material supplier.
The company that emerged in March 2008 from Delphi Interiors (which sits on an adjoining lot on Crooks Rd. in Troy) operates 17 facilities with 3600 employees spread among North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Products include interior systems; cockpits; latch and closure systems; and door module and window-lift systems. From a process standpoint, it offers metal stamping, injection molding, compression molding, compounding, sheet extrusion, and sheet forming.
Inteva is able to compound materials and extrude sheet for product development, and its materials development and characterization lab features advanced testing systems for product evaluation, like drop-dart tests, as well as resin characterization through melt-flow rheology and more. On staff, polymer science specialists and PhDs Tom Ellis and Norm Kakarala head a research team with equipment typically reserved for resin manufacturers.
“We have the ability to formulate and compound materials,” explains Ken Gassman, engineering group manager interior systems. “We have the ability to convert it into product. We have the ability to test it. So with those things, we can iterate through very quickly.”
In addition to its material-development capabilities, Inteva believes that system-level experience – integrating trim with window and lock modules into a door – gives it a unique insight among suppliers. “If you don’t have that system-level experience,” Roose says, “you design something that works at a component level, and then, all of a sudden, it gets in the vehicle, and that environment has a lot of variation, and it doesn’t quite function the way you want it to.”
A new road
Inteva could very well represent the new face of Tier One supply in a post-Big Three market, with the scattered remnants of former OEM divisions Visteon and Delphi cobbled back together into sustainable businesses serving a landscape where GM, Ford, and Chrysler now compete with Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, among others.
In some ways, the shape of the new company is serendipitous, but Roose is glad things have coalesced the way they have. “I’m not sure how it came together,” Roose says, “but I’m glad it did come together, because I think [the different capabilities] do complement each other.
“A lot of folks have gone by the wayside,” Roose says, “and I think you know that vehicle production in North American is projected to be lower next year. We feel we’re very strong, and we feel very well prepared that should there be additional fallout, we’ll be here. We may be the last guy standing, but we’ll be here.” —[email protected]