Caz: Marquardt in driver's seat

"Our parent company gave the directive, and said, we want the North American market to be the huge growth market for us. And they've invested several million dollars to help us do that - in equipment, with hiring people, and of course, innovation," Wardell said. "In leveraging their technology and established relationships in the automotive market, through Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, VW, Audi; these are all customers they've had for a while. We've won these contracts and we're building this equipment, and now we need the people to help us. We need people who are interested in more than just putting a switch together."

Some of the employees in Auburn Hills are in sales, but most of them are in development. They take the customer specs and turn that into the design that is built here. Because Marquardt is not as large as many competitive manufacturers, they are able to go from design to actual prototype quicker, and then on to sign a contract. With the automotive industry operating years in advance, contracts are already signed for 2008 and beyond.

"The next significant step we've taken in our product line is that we've gone from making these individual components, these switches that basically turn things on and off, to switch banks that have this two-way communication thing going on with the car," Wardell said. "Now we're getting into driver authorization systems, where it's a whole system. You have antennas, key fobs, the ignition module, passive entry start/stop button, where you don't have to even put a key in. Just get in, press a button. It starts the car and away we go."

Assemblage at Marquardt is a far cry from manufacturing in the past. They've recently purchased robots and tweaked them to do the jobs that were once done by human hands.

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