Heil acquires Brit tank maker A major British tank-trailer manufacturer, Thompson Carmichael Ltd., has been acquired by Chattanooga, Tenn.- based Heil Trailer International. Headquartered near Birmingham, England, Thompson Carmichael produces petroleum, stainless liquid, and aluminum dry-bulk trailers, as well as aircraft refuelers, bulk-fuel transporters, and specialized equipment, for the U.K. Defense Ministry. "We're very confident Thompson Carmichael, which has sales approaching $20 million, will be able to increase their already high standards of excellence through new-product innovation, customer service, and manufacturing expertise," says Heil president Bob Foster. According to Heil, the British firm's current management and employees will continue operations and carry out the company's expansion plans.

Hendrickson in Mexico Hendrickson Components has launched leaf-spring production at a new 100,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Part of a joint venture between Hendrickson and the Rassini Autopartes subsidiary of Mexico City-based Grupo San Luis, the facility will supply customers throughout the world. Steve Andrews, marketing manager for Hendrickson Components, says that sales from the plant are projected to reach $50 million by next year. He notes that capacity may be increased, depending on market conditions. Hendrickson already has leaf-spring plants in both the U.S. and Canada.

Kumho names new chief Seoul, Korea-based Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. has appointed Hyung In Shin as president. He joined the tire maker in 1965, and served as president of Kumho Tire U.S.A. from 1987 until 1992. In addition, Kumho Tire Co.'s previous president, Il Nam, has been named the manufacturer's new vice chairman.

Cooper buys Brazilian firm Cooper Industries has acquired Lucas Electrical Systems do Brasil Ltda., a maker of lighting products for trucks and cars. The company, based in Sao Paulo, will become part of Cooper Automotive, which markets Wagner, Zanxx, and Blazer lighting products; Anco windshield-wiper products; Champion spark plugs and igniters; and PowerPath and Belden wire and cable. "This acquisition creates new business opportunities for Cooper," says H. John Riley Jr., chairman, president, and CEO, "by expanding our global automotive-lighting business and strengthening our position in South America's fast-growing vehicle manufacturing segment."

Europe and Mercosur talking The European Union (EU) and the Mercosur customs unions formed by several South American countries have begun discussing the creation of a free-trade agreement between the two groups. Formal talks between the 15-nation EU and the four Mercosur countries are expected to result in an agreement by the second half of this year. However, some diplomats representing Mercosur members stress that such an agreement will not be possible unless the EU reforms its agricultural policies.

Zedillo defends free trade According to the Motor Equipment Manufacturers Assn., Mexico's president Ernesto Zedillo strongly defended free trade to Canadian and Mexican business leaders during the recent "Team Canada" trade mission to Mexico. "We Mexicans," said Zedillo, "firmly believe that free trade is a powerful instrument to develop the economy, convert challenges into opportunities, fight social inequality and build a base for well-being, and fight injustices that are the basis of conflict." He also stated that ongoing turbulence in international financial markets does not warrant "reversing the steps we have taken in trade and investment."