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Autolite: (13) Bendix Years

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Saturday, December 1, 1973 began a new era for the Fostoria Spark Plug Plant. Even though this day of change in owership had been anticipated for nearly ten years, the fact that it was about to take place seemed most unreal. Bendix Corporation did not decend upon Fostoria as did Ford Motor Company.

During the interim while the sale conditions for the factory were being reviewed by the Justice Department of the United States, the existing Management was at liberty to become acquainted with the new owners's officals, and tentative plans were made for the final "take-over". at the plant, it was business as usual with Ford, although mounting pressures were felt from all areas to treat Fostoria as an out-side supplier, rather than one of the Ford "family".

If it had not been for the experience of the local plant officials to assume duties that were "dropped" by Ford, and not possible to be legally assumed by Bendix Corporation, there would have been considerable turmoil, and probable disruption of production.

Before actual possession Bendix was going through the efforts to fit spark plugs into its organization, as well as being most concerned with profitable "after-market" sales

However, on Monday, December 3, 1973, the offical announcement of the purchase of the Fostoria Autolite Spark Plug Plant and "Autolite" trademark from the Ford Motor Company was made by Robert Hungate, President of Bendix Automotive group. He also announced that the Fostoria operation was now to be known as the Bendix Autolite Corporation, and it would be a wholly owned subsidiary of Bendix Corporation, Southfield, Michigan.

Duane Richardson, Manager of the Spark Plug Plant for Ford, was to continue to head the local management team, and would serve as Vice-President and General Manager. The Bendix Corporation structure was vastly different from the plant's previous experience under Ford Motor Company. In the Bendix Corporation, W. Michael Blumenthal was Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; Willian Agee and Charles Donnelly were Executive Vice-Presidents; and William Miron, Operation President. Robert Hungate, who reported to William Miron, was to serve as President of the new entity and Thomas J Bush, a Bendix Vice-President and Group Manager, would be Executive Vice-President. Bendix Autolite Corpration would be an operating unit of the Automotive Group, and part of the Power and Engine Sub-groupings, for which Mr Bush was responsible.

A plan devised by Bendix was to set up a Parts Distribution center and Sales Organization operating in Jackson, Tennessee, to sell Automotive replacement parts.

The existing owner was not well established in the automotive "after-market" sales or advertising, and its efforts to add spark plugs to items to be sold caused great difficulty. No one in Bendix had the knowledge required for the advertising and merchandising of spark plugs, until the company hired James Cooley, who attemped to set up the "after-market" distribution for spark plugs at the Tennessee Distribution center.

The feelings of Bendix personnel as to the Fostoria "take-over" was well expressed in a letter writter in a Bendix special supplement pamphlet of December3, 1973, entitled "Welcome to Bendix" by W.Michael Blumenthal:

"Dear Bendix Autolite Corporation Employee:

Now that you are curious about the nature of Bendix, we have prepared this special issue of the corporate newspaper, Bendix Today, which describes the many activities of the corporation, how it got where it is today and the course it is taking for the furture.

"Why did Bendix buy Autolite?

How will you fit into the Bendix corporate structure?

How will your marketing and engineering be handled?

How and under what names will your spark plugs be marketed?

Will you expand your production?

More specifically,what will this new association mean for the employees of Bendix Autolite Corporation?

It is a bit early, perhaps, to answer these questions in detail, butI think some gereral points can be made.

Many of you perhaps are wondering already whether you get a discount on the purchase of a new Bendix washing machine.

Before proceeding any further, let me first advise all of you that there is no suchthing as a washing machine produced by the Bendix Corporation, nor any other type of home appliance.

That incorrect notion goes back 30 years to a company called the Bendix Home Appliance Company which had no formal relationship with The Bendix Corporation and which eventually was absorbed by Philco-Ford.

While we don't make washing machines, I think there is a certain poetic justice in the association, because the so-called Bendix washer was noted as an innovative, well-engineered, top-quality product.

And if there is any common thread typing ourcorporation's diverse activities together, it is that--we develop and manufacture innovative, well-engineered, top-quality products.

That of course is a major reason we opened negotiations with Ford Motor Company when we learned of the Autolite divestiture. We were well aware of your reputationas a supplier of top-quality spark plugs.

This coupled with the fact that Autolite is an attractive business and a natural addition to our present product lines led us to the decision to acquire your operation.

No major changes are contemplated for Autolite. the operation will continue under the direction of Duane E Richardson.

We have had a good look at your local management team and we like what we have learned about them and other key personnel. Consequently, we are urging everone to stay because we need their experience and expertise.

Your local management, of course, will receive all of the support and backup from Bendix which we can provide.

Bendix Autolite will be an operating unit of the Bendix Automotive Group and will be a member of the sup-group, the Power and Engine Components Group.

This group is composed of five other operations which produce fuel management systems, such as carburetors and electronic fuel injection, and ignition parts and componints.

As a member of the Power and Engine Components Group, Autolite's major marketing and engineering operations will be located at Troy, Mich. headquarters of the group.

We do expect to expand production and to penetrate the spark plug market even further.

The most important question, however, regards the meaning of this acquisition to you as an emplouyee of Bendix Autolite.

Only experience can prove to you that the move is in your best interests.

What Bendix expects from its people can be summed up in one word: performance.

In return, bendix offers a good and rewarding outlet for your energies, your skills, and your ambitions.

Bendix can broaden your opportunities.

You are now part of a world wide organization of some 88,000 people engaged in a variety of assignments.

Advancemennt at Bendix is based solely on ability and potential without regard to any other factors unrelated to your professional achievements.

The coropration also maintains a growing number of programs to enhance the health, education, and cultural enrichment of our employees, their families, and the communities in which they live.

Again, let me welcome you to our corporate family. I am looking forward to a long and prosperous association.

W.Michael Blumenthal
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer"

Author's Comment: (In 1976, W. Michael Blumenthal left Bendix Corporation at the request of the newly elected United States President, Jimmie Carter, to serve as Secetary of theTreasury.)

 

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