NORTHVILLE, MI – In what it says is a long-overdue move, Japanese supplier giant Aisin Seiki is celebrating the opening of its new North American sales headquarters and technical center here about 30 minutes from Detroit.

Resurgent auto production and new business from Toyota, General Motors and Chrysler has been stretching the company at the seams for the past several years, but like most auto suppliers, Aisin Seiki was reluctant to invest in new bricks-and-mortar because of the uncertain long-term outlook of the overall U.S. economy.

“We ran out of room four or five years ago, but with the downturn in the economy, it was an easy thing to delay,” says John Koenig, president-sales & marketing, Aisin World Corp. of America.

The company finally bit the bullet and bought a new 200,000-sq.-ft. (18,580-sq.- m) building last year, finishing $13 million in renovations just weeks ago. The facility houses two business units that were in separate locations, Aisin World Corp. of America and Aisin Technical Center of America, under one roof and 300 employees who support sales, marketing, administration and warehousing operations, as well as a technical center that includes a new $3 million dynamometer for engine testing.

About 51 new jobs will be added in the next 12-18 months, Koenig says. “A lot of engineering work that used to be done in Japan now will be done in the U.S.,” he says.

As part of the headquarters opening ceremony, Aisin World Corp. of America CEO Mike Saito presented a $50,000 gift to Northville Township Parks & Recreation.   

The Northville companies are part of Aisin Seiki, a $31 billion company based in Kariya City, Aichi, Japan. It employs 80,000 globally and 8,000 in the U.S., producing everything from brakes and transmissions to navigation, drivetrain and interior parts.

The parent company also has some factories that are nearing their capacity limits as new-vehicle sales continue to climb in the U.S.

“I would not be surprised if there was another plant coming into North America at some point in the future,” Koenig tells WardsAuto, but he declines to elaborate, except to say sunroofs and transmissions are two product areas where capacity is growing scarce.

Toyota accounts for about 70% of the company’s business, but key Detroit-area business includes sunroofs and variable valve-timing systems for GM and transmissions for Chrysler’s heavy-duty Ram pickups.