Hoover Steel Ball Company

The origins of Johnson Controls’ Automotive Experience Business Unit

Hoover Steel Ball Company

Hoover’s headquarters about 1920

March 17, 1913 (PD: 201203)

The founding of the firm that eventually would become Johnson Controls’ Automotive Experience Business Unit occurred 100 years ago this week. On March 17, 1913, Leander J. Hoover founded the Hoover Steel Ball Company in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

At that time, most steel balls used in the U. S. were imported from Germany.  But with the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, German supply sources were essentially shut off.  Hoover met the continuing demand for steel balls, and was able to greatly increase its capacity to meet wartime requirements as well. The young firm flourished early and continued to do so over the ensuing decades.

In 1960, Hoover merged with Universal, Inc., which added several new product lines to the company, including automotive seats.

Another Hoover merger in 1964, this time with Stubnitz Greene Corporation, established the company as the dominant independent producer of metal and foam automotive seating.

By 1978, the company had sold its ball bearing business and had changed its name to Hoover Universal, Inc. to better reflect its variety of product lines.  When Johnson Controls acquired Hoover in 1985, it marked Johnson Controls’ entry into the automotive seating market.