A WORD FROM NAL PRESIDENT AND COO, KISHORE AHUJA:
“This year marks the 40th anniversary of North American Lighting, and I am excited to celebrate this impressive milestone with our team. Some of our Team Members have been around since we first opened in 1983 and remember well the beginnings of what has now become a premier automotive lighting business.
When we first started supplying automotive lighting products out of Flora, IL, NAL was a joint venture between Koito Manufacturing and Hella North America. In 1985, Ichikoh Industries joined the venture. The small Japanese-German owned team began fulfilling lighting orders from a 10,000 square foot workshop, and in just a short time, grew to become the largest tier-one automotive exterior lighting supplier in North America.
Now a wholly owned subsidiary of Koito Manufacturing, NAL has 10 locations in the United States, with nearly 6,000 Team Members, and a global impact. I believe NAL’s rapid growth was not only aided by market tailwinds as foreign automakers started manufacturing in the United States in the 1980’s, but also our innovative products, exceptional quality, the proven Koito production system, competitive pricing, and our committed Team Members.
I joined NAL 29 years ago. Coming from a competitor, I noticed NAL being years ahead in both product and manufacturing technologies. We were less than a tenth of our current size then, yet the desire to be our best was clearly embedded in our culture. A lot has changed in the last 40 years, but the dedication and support of our team, partners and communities has been unwavering.
Thanks to our Team Members, NAL has longstanding relationships with our customers who have come to trust and rely on us as their preferred automotive lighting supplier. We have proved ourselves to be resilient and reliable during the four decades amidst some formidable challenges. In the next decade, I anticipate even more growth amid technological advancements in lighting and sensing solutions for autonomous vehicles.
As I reflect on the last 40 years of our business, our people have always been and will continue to be our most important asset. THANK YOU to our Team Members for playing a part in our past, present, and future success. Anniversary celebrations have already kicked off at our facilities in Elberfeld, IN, Salem and Mattoon, IL. and we look forward to continued celebrations at our remaining facilities throughout the month of September.”
NAL’s COMPANY STORY:
In the 1980s, foreign auto makers started opening plants in the United States and encouraged their suppliers to expand to the US market as well. At the time, the main US-based, exterior automotive lighting suppliers were subsidiaries of domestic automakers. Thus, foreign automakers moving into the US market had a need for US-based lighting experts of their own.
*Fun fact: Before foreign automakers started manufacturing in the United States, many would wait to install the headlights and taillights on imported vehicles until they reached the US to avoid an additional tariff.
Koito Manufacturing, a lighting manufacturing company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, and Hella North America, a German automotive part supplier, recognized the foreign auto makers’ need for a US-based lighting supplier and started North American Lighting as a joint venture in the states.
North American Lighting was established on June 1, 1983, as a Tier One exterior automotive lighting supplier in Flora, IL. This rural town was a likely home for the company as Walter Genthe, the first president of the venture, had previously worked at Hella’s Flora, IL location. Ichiko Industries, another Japanese company, joined the trio in 1985. The small Japanese-German owned team fulfilled their first lighting order from Nissan out of a 10,000 square foot workshop leased in Hella’s 40,000 square foot building.
In the beginning, many of the Koito and Hella designed lamps were shipped to NAL as partially assembled lamps and NAL was just responsible for completing the assembly at their Flora shop. Before long, NAL assumed more of the manufacturing processes, and by 1993, NAL deployed a technical center in Farmington Hills, MI which took over much of the local lamp designing as well.
Domestic automakers came to realize that NAL’s business model was more cost effective than maintaining their in-house suppliers and began to outsource their headlight and taillight systems. As this business model evolved, NAL was able to yield sales from both domestic and foreign automakers.
Today, NAL is North America’s largest Tier One exterior automotive lighting supplier for foreign and domestic OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and employs nearly 6,000 Team Members with locations in five states.
THROUGH THE YEARS:
NAL now has 10 locations in the United States, each with its own specialty. Most of the facilities are in rural areas, an intentional decision to preserve NAL’s small-town company culture, support its growing manufacturing business, and maintain a skilled industrial workforce. It is also worth noting that NAL has expanded at one facility or another every year due to new business, since opening in 1983.
- 1983: NAL was established as a company in Flora, IL and operated out of Hella North America’s existing building.
- 1984: NAL previously operated out of leased space from Hella North America. In December of 1984, NAL opened its own plant in Flora, IL.
- 1987: In July of 1987, the second NAL facility was acquired in Salem, IL at an old sleeping bag manufacturer. The location was ideal for its proximity to the Flora plant, and the feasibility of renovating the 107,000 square foot factory space for lighting production.
- 1993: In the beginning, Koito and Hella designed NAL’s headlights and taillights, but in February of 1993, NAL deployed a technical center in Farmington Hills, MI to support customers with all local US development
- 1998: NAL became a subsidiary of Koito in October 1998.
- 2001: Koito became 100% shareholder of NAL in 2001.
- 2002: The Paris, IL plant was NAL’s third facility and opened in 2002. This plant shipped its first parts on June 11 and held an official grand opening in July of 2002.
- 2005: NAL’s headquarters moved from Flora to Paris, IL in 2005. One major factor in its relocation was the proximity to major universities in support of personnel recruiting.
- 2007: Shortly after its Paris roots were established, NAL built its largest production plant in Muscle Shoals, AL in July of 2007.
- 2012: Just five years after the Muscle Shoals plant opened, it had outgrown the space. In January of 2012, NAL finished its first Muscle Shoals expansion. In March of 2012, NAL opened its own Tool Shop in Elberfeld, IN. The 34,000-square-foot Indiana Tool Plant is home to NAL’s in-house team of plastic injection mold makers.
- 2014: The Muscle Shoals plant expanded for a second time in January of 2014. The Paris Plant expanded in March of 2014.
- 2015: NAL’s Equipment Plant opened in 2015 in Flora, IL. The 45,000-square-foot Illinois Equipment Plant is home to NAL’s assembly machine specialists. These skilled technicians develop and maintain the complex array of equipment deployed throughout NAL’s manufacturing plants: quick-change work cells, adhesive application machines, computer-guided laser welders, robotic fastening stations, and other specialized equipment for its advanced manufacturing processes. In 2015, Koito celebrated its 100th anniversary.
- 2017: In 2017, NAL and Koito launched an innovation team in the Silicon Valley of California and never looked back. The goal of NAL’s Silicon Valley Lab (SVL) is to maintain a position as a leader in the automotive industry. Located at the epicenter of technology innovation, SVL has a mission to invest and partner with startups to develop new ideas in the mobility ecosystem.
Contact: Kayla Boyll, Corporate Human Resources: 217-465-6600 Ext. 7429.