Tralee’s unlikely motor industry
Tillotson Tralee began life as Borg-Warner Ltd, in May 1973, by making carburetors for lawnmowers, chainsaws and other light industrial and agricultural equipment.
The Tillotson Manufacturing Company, which started in 1914 in Toledo, Ohio was, at the time, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Borg-Warner Corporation.
By the mid 1980s the factory’s parent company went through a series of complex buy outs which eventually created Borg-Warner Automotive Inc.
When the dust had settled former Borg-Warner executive Gerald Demirjian had bought out Tillotson and other subsidiaries through his newly founded DemirCo corporation. The Demirjian family retain an interest in the Tralee operation today.
Meanwhile, across town, in December 1986, BERU Electronics Limited, started production.
Its new Monavalley factory initially employed 80 people in the manufacture of glow plugs, heater plugs and ignition connectors for diesel engines and started to supply global automotive giants like BMW and Volkswagen.
By 2010 Borg Warner was back in town having acquired a majority share in BERU in Germany.
An investment of €11.5million in 2017, as the factory made the switch to making air heaters for electric and hybrid cars, turned sour and the factory closed in March this year with the loss of over 200 jobs.
Tralee’s global automotive ambitions could have reached dizzying heights if one Mr William Curtis had his way.
The American announced in May 1959 – frontpage news for that week’s The Kerryman – that he was going to set up a car factory in Tralee.
Mr Curtis was the owner/director of the Shamrock Motor Company and was in discussions with senior Tralee business and political figures about building a 100,000 square foot factory in the town. He had ambitions to build and export 20,000 cars within the first three years of operation.
Tralee’s loss was Castleblayney’s gain, he did succeed in opening a plant in the County Monaghan town, after a falling out with local politicians. Only ten cars were ever completed. Eight are said to survive and one of them remains in a state of disrepair in an East Kerry shed.
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