• Name: Denso Manufacturing of Athens, Tenn.
• Parent: Denso Corp., based in Kariya Aichi, Japan
• Opened: 1997
• Staff: 1,100 employees, including 200 temporary workers
• Size: 542,000 square foot plant
• Products: Auto parts such as fuel injectors, oxygen sensors, ignition coils, spark plugs and monolithic carriers
• Largest customers: Toyota, Honda, General Motors and Ford
Denso is investing another $55 million and adding more than 130 new manufacturing jobs at its Athens, Tenn., plant to boost production of its gasoline direct injectors.
The Japanese-based automotive supplier announced Tuesday that it will expand its 1,100-employee plant in Athens for the second time in as many years. Last year, Denso added 130 more jobs as part of a $50 million expansion in Athens.
The investments are part of more than $1 billion Denso is investing in its North American facilities as the auto market improves and Denso gains market share.
"These are very exciting times at Denso," Hugh Cantrell, general manager for Denso's operations in Athens, said in a statement. "We look forward to continued partnerships as we launch this expansion and compete to bring future products to Athens."
Denso Manufacturing in Athens, one of more than 200 subsidiaries of the Japanese-based Denso Corp., produces oxygen sensors, ignition coils, monolithic carriers and spark plugs in Athens. The company began tooling, staffing and training in June 2013 for mass production of gasoline direct injectors this year,
Denso first mass produced GDI components in 1996, and started production of its third generation of GDI technology in 2012. Denso's latest generation technology is geared to deliver more power and lower emissions while being more compact.
The company opened its plant in Athens in 1997 and grew the facility until the recession cut Denso sales and trimmed the Athens staff by nearly a fourth. Those jobs have returned and then some in the past couple of years.
Denso is now McMinn County's largest industrial employer and is among more than 900 auto manufacturers and suppliers in Tennessee. The automotive industry accounts for one of every three manufacturing jobs in the Volunteer State, according to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
Depending on engine size, Denso's GDI system can help automakers achieve up to 20 percent fuel economy while also helping reduce CO2 emissions of up to 15 percent. For consumers, Denso said its equipment means more mileage for the money and an overall savings at the gas pump.
In addition to expanding its Athens plant, Denso announced this week it is investing another $10 million at its U.S. headquarters in Southfield, Mich., where Denso will add 176 jobs.
"No one would have seen this five years ago, but it's a great time to be in the automotive industry," Terry Helgensen, senior vice president of industry relations at Denso International America, said during the Detroit Auto Show.