DETROIT (AP) _ Automotive supplier Hayes Lemmerz International Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Northville-based company said Wednesday that the petitions, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., affect only operations in the United States and one subsidiary in Mexico.

Hayes Lemmerz is a supplier of automotive and commercial highway wheels, brakes, powertrain suspension, structural and other lightweight components.

``The Chapter 11 filings were precipitated by declining market conditions and the company's excessive debt burdens,'' Curtis Clawson, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. ``This step will give us the flexibility to reduce our debt and restructure our balance sheet.

Clawson said he expected the company would emerge from Chapter 11 as a ``stronger, more competitive company,'' and the reorganization would have no effect on obligations to customers and employees.

He said the company's debt burden was negatively affected by a slowdown in the auto industry, a series of cash acquisitions and ``a more challenging environment.''

International operations remain strong, the company said, and are not affected by the filing.

Last month, Hayes Lemmerz appointed a new chief financial officer and announced it was consolidating its North American operations, including the elimination of 145 jobs, 11 percent of its salaried work force.

The company employs 14,000 people at 46 facilities worldwide.

On Sept. 5, Hayes Lemmerz said it would restate its financial results for the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, widening its loss for the period by $14.7 million.

The company said the move was necessitated by accounting errors, half of which it blamed on one unnamed plant with ``recurring operating difficulties.''

Shares of Hayes Lemmerz closed Wednesday at 50 cents, down 26 cents on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday.


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