Vehicle maker American LaFrance to relocate within the Charleston area

American LaFrance moved its headquarters and manufacturing operations to this newly built Summerville plant in October 2007. Buy this photo

Emergency-vehicle manufacturer American LaFrance will relocate to an undisclosed location in the region and “streamline” its business, less than six years after moving into a brand new plant in Summerville.

The company said Friday it is in the final phases of selecting a site for its headquarters and manufacturing operations.

American LaFrance currently leases two buildings totaling 500,000 square feet on Newton Way, near Jedburg Road and U.S. Interstate 26. The company moved to that campus, which was designed to look like a firehouse, in the fall of 2007.

Company officials were not available Friday to discuss the move or the streamlining plan.

American LaFrance also has a new boss. Automotive veteran Al Malizia, whose online LinkedIn profile shows he is the executive in residence at Coastal Carolina University’s business school, is now CEO. That title previously was held by Torben von Staden. The timing of the CEO change was not available.

“This is the opportune time to establish a new location to serve our current and future needs as an organization,” Malizia said Friday in statement. “The move to a new site gives us the latitude to integrate our engineering, customer service and manufacturing teams under one roof, improving efficiency and reducing costs. Our final site selection will be based on the highest value proposition we can realize for our customers and employees.”

American LaFrance plans to sign a long-term lease and relocate in the third quarter of 2013.

“We have a solid business plan that supports increased shipments and some exciting new orders in 2013,” Malizia said. “Our team has developed a robust relocation plan that will make the transition seamless to our production schedule, customers, dealers and vendors alike.”

The company’s landlord could not be reached for comment Friday.

Through its predecessors, American LaFrance is the oldest fire apparatus manufacturer in the United States, dating back to its founding in 1832. Some of its historical trucks are on display in a museum near the Tanger Outlet Center in North Charleston.

The company also makes rescue and vocational vehicles.

American LaFrance has had its share of financial troubles, including a six-month trip through bankruptcy protection in 2008. It is owned by New York City investment firm Patriarch Partners.

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