MAUMEE, Ohio—With little fanfare this year, one of the global auto industry's oldest suppliers began repositioning itself for a business of the future.
Dana Inc. has made two key acquisitions in the past four months. The 114-year-old manufacturer agreed to acquire controlling interest in the Canadian company TM4 and signed a deal to buy the Drive Systems business of Swiss engineering and tech company Oerlikon Group.
The acquisitions are intended to fortify Dana's expanding electric driveline portfolio. The $605 million Oerlikon acquisition alone will bring Dana about $800 million in additional annual revenue, along with five research and development centers, 12 plants and controlling interest in a Chinese joint venture.
Dana also came within a whisker of buying Britain's GKN this year but was outbid in the final hours by Melrose Industries in a hostile takeover.
Dana's transactions come on top of four other strategic acquisitions over the past three years.
What's going on at the suburban Toledo, Ohio, maker of axles, driveshafts and sealing products?
The goal, says Dana CEO James Kamsickas, is to keep an old-school supplier firmly planted on the breaking wave of developing technologies.
"If you look at our five completed deals—six if you include the Oerlikon deal—they've all been a little bit bigger each time, and they're all tied into a specific strategic intent all along the way," Kamsickas told Automotive News. "Others think of us as a kind of Rust Belt, heavy metals, stamping, forging company, but we're the furthest thing from that these days."
"It's really a high-tech company," Kamsickas said.
With the acquisition of a majority interest in TM4—formerly wholly owned by the Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec—Dana gained a leading supplier of electric motors, power inverters and controls with a joint venture in Weifang, China.
The deal, announced June 22, enables Dana to deliver complete e-drive system capabilities to manufacturers in all of Dana's traditional segments—light vehicle, off highway and commercial. It also broadened Dana's footprint in China and positioned the company for growth in China, which is moving heavily to electrified vehicles.
Meanwhile, the purchase of Oerlikon's Drive Systems business, announced July 30, boosted Dana's portfolio in e-drives and transmissions, along with advanced gearing, planetary drives and other shifting products across Dana's traditional portfolio.
Also this year, Dana had been positioned as a white knight in the battle to acquire GKN, which was fighting off a hostile takeover bid from Melrose. In public, Dana appeared to step in at the last minute to scoop up one of its primary rivals in the light-vehicle all-wheel-drive segment, but Kamsickas said he and his team had seen the early warning signs that GKN was vulnerable, and had been working on a potential deal before Melrose showed up.