LUBLIN, Poland - Solvay Group SA will open its first plastic fuel-systems plant in Poland to serve three carmakers that have set up assembly operations in Poland and Slovenia. The plant at Lublin is due to open in mid-1999.
'It's a carryover from our customers,' said Edward Mabley, business development manager for Solvay Automotive's North American headquarters in Troy, Michigan.
'In terms of shipping, it's better logistically to operate a plant nearby to (move products) in a proper build sequence. Otherwise, we'd be shipping bulky, blow-molded fuel tanks, with a lot of air, too far a distance.'
Solvay's 9,680-square-meter facility is little more than 1km from Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd.'s plant that assembles the Lanos, Nubira and Leganza.
Solvay will initially produce monolayer, blow-molded fuel tanks and fuel filler pipes there, said Jean Pierre Hermans, general manager of Solvay Automotive, based in Brussels, Belgium. The thermoplastic pipes carry fuel from the filler door to the tank.
Both the tank and filler pipes are blow molded from high-density polyethylene.
Hermans declined to say how much Solvay was investing in the wholly owned subsidiary, Solvay Automotive Polska, which will employ 120. He said he hopes to expand operations beyond fuel tanks into nylon air-intake manifolds and other under-the-hood parts.
'We're not far from the borders to other countries,' he said. 'Consequently, we're in a nice position to supply other customers with fuel systems or to expand our product mix to cover more of the market.'
In addition to Daewoo, Solvay will supply fuel systems for the Renault Clio built at Novo Mesto, Slovenia, and the Citroen Berlingo commercial van assembled by Daewoo in Poland.
Solvay makes about 4.5 million tanks annually worldwide, said Hermans, putting it just behind Kautex Textron and Plastic Omnium in Europe.
Fuel systems are 'one of the (Solvay's) growth sectors,' said equity analyst Youssef Uriagly of Banque Dewaay in Brussels. 'Solvay had to go to eastern Europe to follow big automotive companies looking for cheap labor costs there. All of them want local supply, and this will make Solvay a player there.'