Federal-Mogul Corporation History

Address:
26555 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, Michigan 48034
U.S.A.

Telephone: (248) 354 7700
Fax: (248) 354-8983

Website:
Public Company
Incorporated: 1924
Employees: 56,000
Sales: $1.80 billion (1997)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: FMO
SICs: 2891 Adhesives & Sealants; 3053 Gaskets, Packing & Sealing Devices; 3452 Bolts, Nuts, Rivets, & Washers; 3562 Ball & Roller Bearings; 3592 Carburetors, Pistons, Rings, Valves; 3714 Motor Vehicle Parts & Accessories

Company Perspectives:

Federal-Mogul has over 250 locations, across 6 continents, in 24 countries, with 56,000 employees worldwide. Headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, Federal-Mogul is a $7 billion automotive parts manufacturer providing innovative solutions and systems to global customers in the automotive, light truck, heavy-duty, railroad, farm and industrial markets. A century of people serving customers through manufacturing mastery has made Federal-Mogul a global leader in the automotive industry. Recognized by our customers as the supplier of choice for powertrain systems, sealing systems, and general products of leading edge innovation and technology, Federal-Mogul is a dynamic, growth-oriented company dedicated to delighting customers.

Company History:

Federal-Mogul Corporation manufactures precision components for cars, trucks, and construction vehicles, marketing its products to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and aftermarket customers in the United States and around the world under brand names such as "Federal-Mogul," "Signal-Stat," and "TRW." It also packages products for third-party private label brands. The company has about 20 manufacturing facilities in the United States and six other countries. Federal-Mogul sells its own products to major global automakers, including BMW, General Motors, and Nissan. It distributes about 150,000 auto parts to nearly 10,000 automotive aftermarket customers, primarily independent warehouse distributors, but also local parts suppliers and parts retailers.

The company rose to prominence through a series of expansions and acquisitions, which included the Bearing Company of America in 1953, the Bower Roller Bearing Company in 1955, and National Seal in 1956. In the early 1990s, Federal-Mogul sought to offset fluctuating demand in the OEM market by entering into aftermarket sales.

The Muzzy-Lyon Company & The Mogul Metal Company, 1899-1923

The history of Federal-Mogul may be traced to 1899, when J. Howard Muzzy and Edward F. Lyon, two mill supply vendors in Detroit, began searching for ways to produce better Babbitt metal. Babbitt metal, an alloy of tin, antimony, and copper, had been patented in 1839 by Isaac Babbitt as an anti-friction agent surrounding moving metallic locomotive parts. The use of Babbitt metal remained the principal means of preventing rotating metallic shafts from overheating and wearing out. However, the introduction of combustible engines early in the 20th century prompted a need for new, improved Babbitt metal.

Having developed an alternative formula for Babbitt metal, Muzzy and Lyon left secure jobs at J.T. Wing and Company, a vendor of mill and factory supplies and rubber goods, where their friendship and business acumen had gradually matured.

Determined to be their own bosses in the market they knew best, the two partners opened their first facility on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, in 1900. During this time, the mill and factory supply business was highly competitive, and many producers offered shoddy merchandise at inexpensive prices. However, Muzzy and Lyon established a reputation for high-quality products and were able to reinvest most of their profits back into the business. They used aggressive and imaginative advertising, providing money-back guarantees and coupons good for prizes ranging from pocket rulers to firearms.

Whatever time Muzzy could spare from his primary responsibility of managing the financial and manufacturing end of the business he devoted to experimentation with Babbitt metals. Lyon, when not on the road selling company products, joined his partner in blending new formulas of tin, antimony, and lead. Their company soon garnered major orders from Clark Motor Company and the Sheffield Motor Company. As a result of the increased business, the partners formed a subsidiary company called the Mogul Metal Company.

During this time, the traditional method of making motor bearings was to pour molten Babbitt metal directly onto the motor block and to shape the metal to fit by hand. Mechanics replaced worn bearings by laboriously gouging out the old metal and then pouring in the new. When Sheffield's parent organization, the Fairbanks Morse Company, inquired as to whether die cast metals could be manufactured to form standard size bearings, Muzzy and Lyon began working on a method. They purchased a typecasting machine, and, by modifying it, they were able to make some of the new parts themselves, while commissioning various machine shops to produce the rest. The design and construction of Muzzy's and Lyon's new machine remained a secret, and while the partners had limited mechanical and engineering experience, the machine proved successful.

The potential of the die casting machine so impressed the partners that they decided to drop the mill supply business completely. The company would devote its entire resources to manufacturing and mechanizing automotive bearings and Babbitt metals. They sold their products under the brand names of "Duro" (made according to a purchased formula) and "Mogul" (their own formula developed by Muzzy and Lyon). Orders for their die cast bearings began to arrive, and, in 1910, an important order was placed for 10,000 connecting rod bearings for the massive Buick 10, one of the first cars to use parts produced by Mogul Metal. That year, the partners nearly lost a large order from the Hudson Motor Company, when they refused to compromise their secret processes by allowing Hudson engineers to inspect the plant.

Federal-Mogul Corporation, 1924-54

In 1923, Muzzy learned that Douglas-Dahlin, a large Kansas City-based parts distributor, stood in danger of bankruptcy while owing Mogul a large sum of money. S.C. Reynolds, vice-president of Federal Bearing and Bushing, which also stood to lose money, called Muzzy to discuss the situation, proposing a trip to Kansas City to protect their interests. When Muzzy and Reynolds began discussing their companies and assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses, they realized the advantages of a merger. The Federal Bearing employees were expert bronze foundrymen but lacked the capacity to produce Babbitt. Muzzy-Lyon, on the other hand, operated a complete Babbitt foundry but purchased bronze on the market. The companies merged in 1924, taking the name Federal-Mogul Corporation. To protect its investments, Federal-Mogul took over the near-bankrupt Douglas-Dahlin Company, entering the parts distribution business.

In 1927, Federal-Mogul purchased U.S. Bearings Company, an Indiana distributor that resold replacement bearings. The following year, Federal-Mogul's involvement in the service business increased substantially with the acquisition of the Watkins Manufacturing Company of Wichita, Kansas. Following this major expansion, Federal-Mogul also purchased the Pacific Metal Bearing Company in San Francisco, primarily to supply its West Coast branches. In 1936, the corporation acquired the Indianapolis-based Superior Bearings Company, and, in 1937, the service division went international with the acquisition of the former Watkins Rebabbitting Limited, with Canadian locations in Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg. By 1939, Federal-Mogul was operating 53 service branches across the North American continent.

World War II led to further expansion. By 1941, Federal-Mogul had over 50 facilities devoted to military production, turning out millions of bearings, bushings, and seals for military applications. The company's marine division won highly competitive U.S. Navy tests for PT boat propellers and secured orders for over 24,000 Super Equi-poise wheels for every PT boat propeller used by all the Allied navies, including that of the Soviet Union. The marine division grew from a workforce of 50 in 1942 to nearly 1,000 by the end of the war. Moreover, from September 1939 to July 1945, the total area of Federal-Mogul plants increased nearly threefold, and annual sales were more than double the best prewar amounts.

Although postwar employee layoffs were necessary, the company continued to grow through acquisition. In 1953, Federal-Mogul merged with Bearings Company of America, marking the single largest acquisition in its history. The merger of the Bearings Company brought 610 new employees and approximately 121,000 square feet of manufacturing space into the organization.

Federal-Mogul-Bower Bearings, Inc., 1955-64

Even more significant growth occurred in 1955 when Federal-Mogul acquired the Bower Roller Bearing Company. Soon thereafter, the corporation announced its third major merger in as many years, when The National Motor Bearing Company (National Seal Division) joined the new Federal-Mogul-Bower Bearing Corporation in July 1956. At the time of the merger, National was one of the country's largest manufacturers of oil seals and a variety of other specialized parts ranging from grommets and gaskets to fiberglass ducts and railroad journal boxes. The acquisition earned the company its first listing among Fortune magazine's 500 largest American companies, ranking 350 with sales that exceeded $100 million that year. By the end of the 1950s, Federal-Mogul's service division had expanded from 58 to 96 branches, and the number of customers had doubled to over 10,000. The mergers and increased efficiency of the 1950s had increased annual sales to four times their 1949 level.

During the 1960s, the corporation's timely response to innovations in automobile production ultimately resulted in large dividends. One such development involved the steady expansion of foreign automobile manufacturers, facilitated by mass production technology and the development of the European Common Market. Observing a threat to American export sales, Federal-Mogul management began investing in foreign manufacturing operations and purchasing interests in various major European bearing firms. Domestic expansion also continued, and the firm began to focus on manufacturing parts for the highly sophisticated missile market. In 1964, Federal-Mogul opened a new oil seal facility that was publicized as the most highly mechanized plant of its kind in the world. The following year, the company purchased Steering Aluminum, a piston factory, and the Vellumoid Company, a manufacturer of gaskets and gasket materials.

Federal-Mogul Corporation ... Again, 1965-90s

The company's name was changed back to Federal-Mogul Corporation in April 1965. One year later, Federal-Mogul's world headquarters officially relocated from its location in downtown Detroit to its present location in Southfield, Michigan, in July 1966.

The early 1970s marked a domestic expansion into the southern states. A highly automated new plant in Princeton, Kentucky, opened in late 1970, with 50,000 square feet devoted to producing super alloy metal powders. In 1971, a new plant in Virginia began manufacturing aluminum sleeve bearings, while another Federal-Mogul plant was introduced for the manufacture of bimetal bushings and bearings. The following year, an additional powdered metal parts plant was opened in Ripley, Tennessee, and, soon thereafter, a new 360,000-square-foot plant in Hamilton, Alabama, began producing tapered roller bearings ranging up to eight inches in diameter.

Economic recession in 1975 prompted management at Federal-Mogul to begin reassessing its long-term strategy. Although the company quickly recovered from the recession, recording its fourth consecutive year of record sales and earnings in 1979, management had found that the company's earnings were overly reliant on the fortunes of automotive OEMs. In the 1980s, chairperson and CEO Tom Russell placed increasing emphasis on a strategy of diversification, making acquisitions and entering into joint ventures to strengthen its manufacturing position. In July 1985, Federal-Mogul acquired the Mather Company, a manufacturer of high performance sealing products for the automotive and industrial markets and a leader in PTFE (Teflon) technology. In January 1986, the purchase of the Carter Automotive Company, Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of automotive fuel pumps and systems, and, in September of that year, the acquisition of Signal-Stat, a manufacturer, marketer, and distributor for lighting and safety components, further strengthened its position. In August 1989, Federal-Mogul completed a joint venture agreement with G. Bruss GmbH and Co. KG, a German manufacturer of seals and specialty molded products.

Dennis J. Gorley, who assumed Federal-Mogul's chief executive office upon Russell's 1989 retirement, accelerated his predecessor's diversification scheme. Gorley spearheaded Federal-Mogul's expansion into the automotive aftermarket, which promised higher profit margins and more stability than the OEM market. From 1989 to 1993, the firm continued to strengthen its operations through additional acquisitions, acquiring some of the best-known brands in automotive replacement parts and divesting itself of some peripheral OEM businesses. Principal acquisitions included: the vehicular lighting assets of R.E. Dietz and Co. in March 1990; German manufacturer of automotive and diesel engine bearings, Glyco AG in October 1990; Brown & Dureau (Australia) and Sealed Power Replacement. The company made its largest purchase ever in 1992, when it bought TRW Inc.'s automotive aftermarket business (AAB). The former TRW operations expanded Federal-Mogul's European and Japanese penetration and constituted nearly 20 percent of annual revenues in 1993.

During this period, Federal-Mogul worked to improve efficiency through automation, capital improvements, and staff reductions. The company adopted bar code technology for inventory control and invested in guided vehicles, hand-held scanners, and computers for its Jacksonville, Alabama, worldwide distribution center. These modernizations cut order fulfillment time from three days to one. Federal-Mogul also moved to transform its export operations into international enterprises. By 1993, 21 percent of the company's sales were generated by businesses outside the United States and Canada, while another 13 percent of annual revenues still came from exports.

The transition was not entirely smooth; Federal-Mogul recorded net losses in 1991 and 1992 totaling $87.4 million. However, when the company reported a $40.1 million profit for 1993, Financial World praised the company's "sound acquisition strategy, good cost controls, and participation in international markets." Noting that the company's stock had outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, CEO Gorley maintained that recent progress was "just the beginning," telling shareholders in the company's annual report that Federal-Mogul was "positioning itself as a company capable of sustained earnings growth." In March 1993, Federal-Mogul's lighting and electrical division was named one of the first General Motors Worldwide Suppliers of the Year for its excellence in quality, service, and price.

In September 1995, the company acquired Seal Technology Systems (STS), one of Europe's leading designers and manufacturers of a specialized range of seals and gaskets for the automotive sector and other industrial markets. Chrysler Corporation recognized the company for outstanding manufacturing plant performance in the areas of Quality, Delivery, and Warranty in May 1996, with its Gold Pentastar Award being given to Federal-Mogul's Blacksburg, Virginia engine bearing manufacturing facility. In November of that year, Dick Snell took the helm as chairman, CEO, and president of Federal-Mogul. Another accolade came in January 1997, when Federal-Mogul's engine bearings facility in Orleans, France, was honored with the first-ever Platinum Award for supplier excellence from the Rover Group, for winning the Gold Supplier Excellence Award three consecutive years. Concurrently, Federal-Mogul's STS division won the Rover Group's Silver Supplier Excellence Award for the second consecutive year.

Acquisition Spree, 1997-98

Beginning in October 1997, the company went on an acquisition spree, acquiring T&N PLC, one of the world's leading suppliers of high-technology automotive components, engineered products, and industrial materials.

In January 1998, Federal-Mogul acquired privately owned Fel-Pro Inc.--the premier automotive and industrial gasket manufacturer for the North American aftermarket and OE heavy-duty market, headquartered in Skokie, Illinois--and its subsidiaries. The acquisition of the venerable company (founded in Chicago in 1918 as Felt Products Manufacturing Company to manufacture Ford Model T car felt gaskets and washers) brought the Michigan giant capabilities in a broad variety of products, including custom and standard potting, encapsulation, and embedment compounds, resins, adhesives, sealants, epoxy and polyurethane compounds. The $720 million ($225 million common stock/$495 million cash) acquisition also brought 1,800 new employees to Federal-Mogul.

In March, Federal-Mogul strengthened its market position in Asia by increasing the company's ownership in KFM Bearing Co., Ltd., the leading manufacturer of engine bearings, bushings, and related parts for automotive and other applications in Korea, a joint venture formed that year with Kukje Special Metal Co., Ltd., from 30 percent to 87 percent. Also in March, the company expanded its engine bearing operations in Europe when it acquired Gdansk, Poland-based Bimet S.A., a manufacturer of engine bearings, bushings, and related products, bringing 600 employees and sales of $12 million to the company.

In October of that year, Federal-Mogul also acquired Tri-Way Machine Limited, a privately owned manufacturer of machines and machining systems serving the world metal-cutting industry, headquartered in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and its subsidiary, J.I.S. Machining Ltd., a machiner of powertrain components. A second acquisition that month was Cooper Automotive, a business unit of Cooper Industries, Inc., whose principal products included brakes and friction, lighting, chassis parts, ignition, and wiper blades.

With over 250 locations across six continents, with 56,000 employees worldwide, and a century of business experience to its credit, Federal-Mogul reigned as a longtime leader in the automotive industry and yet promised to be a dynamic, growth-oriented company, with its eye on innovation well into the 21st century.

Principal Subsidiaries: BHW GmbH; Bimet SA; Carter Automotive Company, Inc.; Conaba S.A. de C.V. (51%); F-M Motorentiele Holding GmbH; Federal-Mogul Boliviana, S.A.; Federal-Mogul Bruss Scaling Systems (74%); Federal-Mogul Canada Investment Co.; Federal-Mogul Canada Ltd.; Federal-Mogul Cayman Investment Company Ltd.; Federal-Mogul Comercio International, S.A.; Federal-Mogul de Costa Rica, S.A.; Federal-Mogul de Guatemala, S.A.; Federal-Mogul de Venezuela C.A.; Federal-Mogul del Ecuador, S.A.; Federal-Mogul Distribuidora SAC (66%); Federal-Mogul Dominicana, S.A.; Federal-Mogul Funding Corp.; Federal-Mogul GmbH; Federal-Mogul Handelsgesellschaft MBH; Federal-Mogul Holding U.K., Ltd.; Federal-Mogul Japan KK; Federal-Mogul Ltd.; Federal-Mogul New Zealand Ltd.; Federal-Mogul Panama, S.A.; Federal-Mogul Pty. Ltd.; Federal-Mogul S.A. de C.V. (61%); Federal-Mogul S.A. (France); Federal-Mogul S.A. (Switzerland); Federal-Mogul SpA; Federal-Mogul Uruguay; Federal-Mogul Venture Corp.; Federal-Mogul World Trade Chile Ltda (99%); Federal-Mogul World Trade de Espana, S.A.; Federal-Mogul World Trade E.C.; Federal-Mogul World Trade Hong Kong, Ltd.; Federal-Mogul World Trade, Inc.; Federal-Mogul World Trade Ltd.; Federal-Mogul World Trade Pte. Ltd.; Federal-Mogul World Trade SDN BHD; Federal-Mogul World Wide, Inc.; Federal-Mogul Westwind Air Bearings Ltd. (89%); Fel-Pro Chemical Products L.P.; Fel-Pro Inc.; Fel-Pro Specialty Sealing Products L.P.; Femosa Mexico S.A. (90%); Glyco AG; Glyco Antriebstechnik GmbH; Glyco B.V.; Glyco do Brasil; Glyco KG; H. Minoli S.A.I.C. (59%); In-De-Co.; KFM Bearing Co. Ltd. (87%); Manufacturas Metalicas Linan S.A.; Mather Seal Co.; Metaltec, Inc.; Raimsa S.A. de C.V. (70%); Servicios Administrativos Industriales, S.A.; Servicios de Components Automotrices, S.A.; Subensambles Internacionales S.A. de C.V.; T&N PLC; Villa Fane Auto Supply, Inc.

Further Reading:

  • "APS/Big A Auto Parts Challenge New Gasket Supplier to Speed Vendor Changeover," Automotive Marketing, November 1995, p. 108.
  • Bates, Chris, "Profile of a Successful Exporter, Fel-Pro, Inc.," Business America, June 28, 1982, p. 11.
  • Cowans, Deborah Shalowitz, "Fel-Pro Family-Friendly Benefits to Stay for Now Despite Sale," Business Insurance, January 19, 1998, p. 2.
  • ------, "Investing in Employee Wellness: Companies See Big Returns from Offering Preventive Benefits," Business Insurance, March 11, 1996, p. 3.
  • Crown, Judith, "Family Ties Will Be Strained in Fel-Pro Deal," Crain's Chicago Business, December 1, 1997, p. 4.
  • "Elliot Lehman and Lewis Weinberg," Industry Week, October 27, 1980, p. 53.
  • Elstrom, Peter J.W., "Chaos Shattering Trade with Mideast," Crain's Chicago Business, January 21, 1991, p. 4.
  • "Employer Panel Shares Plan Experiences," Employee Benefit Plan Review, October 1991, p. 45.
  • "Employer's Family Benefits Attract Workers," Employee Benefit Plan Review, March 1992, p. 20.
  • "Federal-Mogul," Rubber World, February 1998, p. 8.
  • "Federal-Mogul Corp. Continues Its Buying Binge," Ward's Auto World, April 1998, p. 57.
  • "Federal-Mogul Finishes Purchase," Wall Street Journal, February 25, 1998, p. B6.
  • "Federal-Mogul Plans to Buy Fel-Pro for $720 Million," New York Times, January 13, 1998, p. C3.
  • "Federal-Mogul, Southfield, MI, Has Completed the Acquisition of Fel-Pro, a Privately-Owned Manufacturer Headquartered in Skokie, IL, for $720 Million," Rubber World, March 1998, p. 12.
  • "Federal-Mogul to Acquire Fel-Pro," Industrial Distribution, February 1998, p. 28.
  • Green, J. Howard, "Doing Well by Doing Good," Time, May 20, 1996, p. 42.
  • Hershey, Robert D., Jr., "Paradise Lost?: A Takeover of Workers' Dream Factory," International Herald Tribune, May 16, 1998, p. 19.
  • ------, "Subjects Uneasy as a Benevolent Reign Ends," New York Times, June 7, 1998, p. B13.
  • Hogan, Brian J., "Pump Rotor Secured to Shaft by Anaerobic Adhesive; Bonding Permits Design Modifications That Simplify Pump Manufacture," Design News, September 23, 1985, p. 110.
  • McGeehan, Patrick, "Federal-Mogul Buys Fel-Pro for $720 Million," Wall Street Journal, Europe, February 25, 1998, p. 8.
  • Melcher, Richard, "Warm and Fuzzy, Meet Rough and Tumble; A Takeover Puts a Manufacturer's Generous Perks to the Test," Business Week, January 26, 1998, p. 38.
  • Panchapakesan, Meenakshi, "Federal-Mogul: Shifting Gears," Financial World, January 18, 1994, p. 24.
  • "Personnel," Automotive News, August 7, 1995, p. 25.
  • Puchalsky, Andrea, "Federal-Mogul Expected to Purchase Fel-Pro Inc.," Wall Street Journal, Europe, January 12, 1998, p. 3.
  • ------, "Federal-Mogul Plans to Buy Fel-Pro Inc.," Wall Street Journal, January 12, 1998, p. A3.
  • ------, "Federal-Mogul Sets Pact for Fel-Pro, a Car-Parts Maker," Wall Street Journal, January 13, 1998, p. A6.
  • Stone, Gene, et al, "Workstyle," Inc., January 1986, p. 45.
  • Tait, Nikki, "Federal-Mogul Expands Further with $720M Buy," Financial Times, January 13, 1998, p. 26.
  • Zingraff, Mike, Jr., "Domestic Fel-Pro Claims Best Import Gaskets Coverage," Motor Age, September 1991, p. 78.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 26. St. James Press, 1999.