Wipeout! (For U.S. Market Share Of Wipers, Motors)

Valeo SA, a French auto-parts producer, is trying to wipe out its U.S. competition -- literally. It's taken the No. 1 global position in windshield-wiper systems and electrical motors for cars by paying US$1.7 billion for ITT Industries Inc.'s Auburn Hills, Mich.-based electrical-systems business. The transatlantic deal comes as the auto parts industry is being rationalized to drive down costs and improve profit margins. Valeo, which also makes clutches, lighting, electronics, and cooling systems, expects to now generate 28% of its total sales in North America, up from a pre-purchase 14%. And Nol Goutard, Valeo's chairman, seems ready to make additional U.S. purchases. "We might seize other opportunities as they come up," he says.

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