Kemp at Hitachi

Stephen Poulter, right, a production director at Hitachi in Monroe, leads Gov. Brian Kemp on a tour of the auto supplier Monday morning, Sept. 16, 2019. The governor brought his Georgia Made tour to Walton County as he highlights the impact of industries on local economies across the state.

MONROE, Ga. — Hitachi Automotive Systems, the largest private employer in Walton County, teamed up with three Honda suppliers to cut costs and better position itself for the cars of the future.

In a deal that took effect on New Year’s Day, Hitachi Automotive concluded its management integration with Keihin Corp., Showa Corp. and Nissin Kogyo Co. Ltd. to form Hitachi Astemo Ltd.

The name is derived from the words “Advanced Sustainable Technologies for Mobility,” describing the company’s mission of an integrated company that will “provide a safe, sustainable and comfortable mobility life through technologies that contribute to an advanced and sustainable society,” the company said in a statement.

Hitachi Astemo has roots in Walton County dating to the opening of the local plant off U.S. 78 in 1997 as Unisia of Georgia Corp. Hitachi acquired Unisia several years later and the new company’s name went on the local plant on Jan. 1, 2011.

At the time, Hitachi had 175 local employees plus 40 temporary workers.

By 2019, there were 900 employees when Gov. Brian Kemp announced Hitachi would invest at least $100 million — and possible up to $330 million — and bring 100 new jobs or more to the community.

Hitachi produces advanced technology products for major automotive original equipment manufacturers including Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Subaru.

Mayor John Howard said he’s not expecting much change for the Monroe plant, but thinks the merger means good things are ahead.

“They merged because of what Hitachi had to offer in Monroe,” Howard said. “They’ve really been big on the autonomous driving technology, which is great, and really it’s just another thing that’s going to put Monroe on the map.

“The plant will stay the same, but they’ll have much better buying power. They’ll be, if not the market leader in that portion of the business, they’ll be top two.

“It really does my heart good to know we just have another positive step in the way Monroe’s moving.”

Dessa Morris, who handles workforce development for the Development Authority of Walton County, noted that one out of every 10 jobs in the county is in manufacturing.

“This sector continues to be very strong with lots of available career opportunities,” she said. “Monroe Area High School is launching a manufacturing pathway with the ’21-22 school year. Hitachi Astemo has been a key partner in this endeavor.”

The combined company, based in Tokyo, boasts 90,000 employees across offices and plants in 27 countries.

“The merged company will be a mega supplier and will develop competitive advanced technologies and solutions,” Hitachi Executive Vice President Keiji Kojima told Reuters. “We will leverage our strengths and our scale to expand globally.”

Hitachi Ltd. owns 66.6% of the new company while Honda Motor Co. Ltd. owns the remainder.

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