Schrader's turnover down 2% as global car sales drop
A shrinking global car sales market and trade tensions between the US and China have contributed to a 2% decline in turnover at Co Antrim firm Schrader Electronics.
The company, which was taken over in 2014 by global firm Sensata Technologies, reported a drop in sales to $418.9m (£322.6m) during 2018.
Staff numbers were also reduced to 1,198, however, the accounts also showed a rise in pre-tax profits of 7% to $95.4m (£73.5m) from 2017's $89m (£68.5m).
The firm, which makes tyre pressure monitoring systems for car companies including Volkswagen, Audi, Ford and Mercedes, said it expects further sales declines this year.
It said: "In 2018 global car and light vehicle sales contracted by 0.5% to 86m vehicles, the first fall in volumes since 2009. Globally, sales declined by 0.2% in North America and 1.1% in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa with the sharpest decline of 2.8% in the China market.
"The outlook for 2019 is for further stagnation in the US market, continued decline in Europe due to political uncertainties and further softening in the China market in the face of increasing tariffs between the US and China. Globally sales are forecast to decline by four million vehicles."
The report revealed the firm also reduced staff numbers by 189 in 2018 to 1,198 across its factories in Carrickfergus and Antrim.
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That drop coincides with a letter given to staff in February of last year which said 275 jobs were at risk at the firm.
At the time Graeme Thompson, UK general manager at Sensata Technologies, said: "Following a review of our operations and in response to a drop in expected demand for some of the products currently manufactured in Northern Ireland, the company regrets to announce that we will potentially be reducing the workforce at our site in Carrickfergus by 125 people."
In the letter Sensata said: "The company will continue to monitor our end markets and the resulting production level forecasts. As part of this business reorganisation there may be an adaptation to existing roles and some working conditions."
Schrader Electronics said much of its focus this year will be on research and development on which it spent a further $26.4m in 2018, a rise of 11% on the previous year.
In October 2018 the manufacturer said it would be investing £14m on the development new products for the car industry.
Announcing the investment, Mr Thompson said: "This significant investment will help ensure our R&D centre in Antrim grows and remains competitive.
"Indeed our ambition is to develop an R&D centre of excellence in Northern Ireland.
"Demand in the wider automotive sensors market is expected to grow significantly, due to factors such as the need to reduce emissions, the trend to autonomous cars, and new comfort and convenience features."
Economic development agency Invest NI offered the firm £3m.
At the time, Invest NI chief Alastair Hamilton said: "The automotive sector is hugely competitive and continuous innovation is necessary for Schrader to satisfy its customers' needs and capitalise on new opportunities."