The automotive industry has fared well this past year, turning out the best sales numbers in a decade, as consumers replace a fleet that's older on average than ever before. That brisk sales pace has been a big tailwind for parts suppliers such as BorgWarner (BWA). Even if you're not familiar with the BorgWarner name, there's a good chance that your car is on the road today because of this $13 billion tier-1 parts supplier -- the firm makes engine and drivetrain components like turbochargers, timing belts, and transmissions for a huge group of automakers.
BorgWarner boasts a big customer list that includes the likes of Volkswagen, Ford, Daimler, and GM. The emphasis on increased efficiency without sacrificing performance has been a boost for BWA -- it's one of the reasons why the market for turbochargers has grown at brisk rates, and it's helped user in the adoption of diesel cars here in the U.S. Like any tier-1 auto supplier, BorgWarner benefits by locked-in customers; since automakers rely on BWA to produce specific parts for specific vehicles, switching costs are extremely high if Ford or Volkswagen decide to switch suppliers. And OEMs aren't likely to switch in the first place, since BWA's enormous scale means that it can produce quality parts more cheaply than most.
From a financial standpoint, BorgWarner is in solid shape, with a $1.4 billion cash and investment balance more than offsetting the firm's $1.2 billion debt load. The parts business is capital intense, but BWA has been a great capital allocator, keeping balance sheet leverage at zero. Look for a possible upside catalyst at BWA's next earnings call this coming month.