BREWER, Maine — Scuttlebutt about Brewer Automotive Components closing is “absolutely untrue,” but the company has — for the last three months — offered severance packages to anyone who chooses to leave, company officials said Wednesday.
“We have not laid off” any employees, said Mike Seile, BAC vice president of operations. “We have offered our employees the opportunity to voluntarily [leave]. We have had some acceptance of” those offers.
The severance offers were first made in December, and “we’re right where we need to be right now,” Seile said.
BAC makes suspension and steering components for a number of automakers, but Toyota is their main customer.
“When their sales are down, our sales are down,” plant manager Andy Fitzpatrick said Wednesday.
He added that “it’s absolutely untrue,” that the manufacturing facility is closing.
“In this uncertain economic climate we don’t know what our forecasts are [or] what 2009 is going to bring,” Seile said. “For some people that’s OK, but for some people it’s unnerving.”
By offering the severance packages, the need for layoffs has been avoided, he said, adding that “no employees have been forced into taking severance packages. It’s all been mutual.”
The national slowdown in the auto industry did cause a temporary two-week shutdown at BAC in December, and after employees returned, the company “moved all the employees to the first and second shifts” and eliminated the third shift, Seile said.
All the changes were made so BAC can “remain a viable company and keep as many people employed as possible,” Fitzpatrick said.
Sister company ZF Lemforder said in January it would close its doors by mid-2010, laying off 127 people may have something to do with the recent BAC rumors. The BAC plant is a joint venture between ZF North America, based in Northville, Mich., and Somic Ishikawa of Hamamatsu, Japan, another leading parts manufac-turer.
Company officials stressed that “despite this difficult decision” to close Lemforder, they remain committed to BAC and are taking steps “to steer the company through the current financial crisis.”
The Brewer facility opened in 1989, with another plant opening in Wytheville, Va., three years later in 2002. With the recent adjustments, combined employment at both plants will total 195, the release states.