In the fourth quarter, sales decreased by 7% year-on-year to US$4.9 billion, reflecting difficulties with the worldwide semiconductor shortage. However, for the full year, Lear managed to hold onto growth with sales increasing 13% over 2020 to US$19.3 billion.
The company returned US$207 million of cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases and, in the fourth quarter, it increased quarterly cash dividend to a pre-pandemic level of US$0.77 per share.
Lear reported that its seating market share increased in 2021 from 23% to 25% and that a US$3.3 billion backlog for 2022-24 supports continued growth over market in seating and e-systems, driven by new business and its growing electrification business.
Global vehicle production was significantly impacted by the pandemic and global semiconductor shortages in 2021 and, subsequently, the company reported that global vehicle production increased by just 3% over 2020. Regionally, North America was flat for 2021, Europe was down 4% and China up 5%.
Looking forward, Lear President and CEO Ray Scott said: “While we expect industry production volumes to improve in 2022, we are still facing uncertainties related to the Covid-19 pandemic, semiconductor shortages and inflationary pressures.
“I remain optimistic about Lear’s prospects as we have a very strong backlog of new business launching over the next three years. In addition, consumer demand remains extremely robust and industry inventory levels remain historically low, indicating that the auto industry is primed for a sustained recovery in production volumes.”