With a contract expiration less than a month away, workers and managers at the Behr Dayton Thermal Products plant – the largest auto parts plant still within city limits – are negotiating a new agreement, the company said.

With a contract expiration less than a month away, workers and managers at the Behr Dayton Thermal Products plant – the largest auto parts plant still within city limits – are negotiating a new agreement, the company said.

The plant at 1600 Webster St. has about 960 employees.

The company’s current four-year contract with the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communication Workers of America Local 775 expires Nov. 24.

“We are currently negotiating on the contract,” said Rose Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for Behr. She declined to elaborate.

William Gibbs, Local 775 president, confirmed the talks, but didn’t answer questions.

Plant Manager Rob Baker,said earlier this year that the company was planning to invest in production robotics to gain a competitive foothold against lower-cost auto components plants outside the U.S.

Baker said at the time that a reason to invest in robotics was a hoped-for renewal of its business with Chrysler, which represented about 25 percent of the plant’s work.

The plant makes front and rear HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) modules for Chrysler minivans as well as the engine cooling modules for minivans. It also makes the front HVAC module for the Grand Cherokee, as well as HVAC modules for the Dodge Challenger.

In May, Stuttgart-based MAHLE GmbH took a majority stake in the Behr Group, increasing its holding from 36.9 percent to about 51 percent with the acquisition of all shares in the BWK GmbH holding company.

That move allowed the integration of the company’s thermal management business into the MAHLE company.

The local plant was owned and operated by Chrysler from the 1930s until 2002.

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©2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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