Leeds Park industrial complex (copy)

Leeds Park near I-526 and Leeds Avenue is home to Gear Design and Manufacturing/AAM Charleston. The auto parts maker said it will cease production at the end of this month and begin laying off 85 workers. File/Provided

A North Charleston manufacturer of vehicle transmission assemblies is closing its Leeds Avenue site as part of a companywide restructuring, with 85 workers set to lose their jobs.

Gear Design & Manufacturing/AAM Charleston told state labor officials that it will cease production at the end of this month. Jobs will be eliminated in phases beginning Aug. 1, with the last wave of employees leaving the plant by May 2020, according to the company's notice with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

"The plant closing will be permanent and will involve essentially the entire facility," plant manager Kim Forshee said in the letter.

The Detroit-based company is consolidating its powertrain business into its driveline and metal forming units, affecting two dozen plants, including the North Charleston site.

The restructuring "will enhance the alignment of AAM's product and process technologies and will help us accelerate the implementation of AAM's operating system, including important program management and launch readiness discipline, which we are lacking," David Dauch, CEO of parent American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc., said during a conference call with analysts in May.

AAM reported sales of $1.72 billion during the first quarter, down 7.5 percent from the previous year. Net income was $41.6 million for the period, down 53.5 percent.

The company's stock closed Friday at $11.23 per share, down from its 52-week high of $19.34.

AAM had been leasing space at the Leeds Park industrial campus owned by New York-based LRC Properties. The auto parks maker will be vacating a roughly 100,000-square-foot space at the 1.1 million-square-foot park, which dates to the mid-1960s.

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.


The business was established in 1995 as a joint venture between Getrag Gears of North American and diesel giant Cummins Inc. It was renamed TorqTek Design and Manufacturing in early 2012 as part of a management buyout.

In 2014, the company announced a $12 million investment that was to create an additional 50 jobs to help meet increased demand for its transmission parts and assemblies.

American Axle's Metaldyne division paid $6 million for the company in April 2017. At the time, the manufacturer had about 150 employees.

 

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_