Johnson Controls exits the auto industry

November 19, 2018 06:01 CET

The announced sale of its Power Solutions business last week completes the transformation of Johnson Controls International — one of the auto industry’s biggest suppliers — into a nonautomotive company.

Now 135 years after Warren Johnson obtained a patent for the first electric room thermostat, his company is returning to its roots, focusing on making climate control systems for buildings.

It’s a remarkable turnabout for a company that once claimed bragging rights as the world’s biggest supplier of auto batteries and of vehicle seats.

The company entered the auto industry in 1978 when it acquired a battery producer called Globe-Union. Seven years later, it bought seatmakers Hoover Universal and Ferro Manufacturing. By 2011, JCI was seventh on Automotive News Europe’s list of the top 100 automotive suppliers, with global original equipment revenue of $21.28 billion in the fiscal year.

But the company then began to dismantle that empire.

In 2015, it spun off its interiors division as a joint venture called Yanfeng Automotive Trim Systems Co. A year later, it followed up with the spinoff of its seating unit, now known as Adient.

You can reach David Sedgwick at dsedgwick@crain.com.

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