RASTATT, Germany - Walbro Corp. will open an engineering center in Rastatt to develop fuel systems with DaimlerChrysler AG.
Manfred Stotz, head of fuel-systems development at DaimlerChrysler in Germany, said the expanded capacity would enable the US-based supplier to become 'a full systems-development partner in Germany.'
Stotz said the new engineering center would allow the carmaker to concentrate on managing the integration of systems.
'Such things (as the engineering center) are hardly possible for a vehicle manufacturer to develop or fully utilize,' Stotz said.
Walbro will supply fuel tanks for the Mercedes-Benz C-class and E-class from a new plant that will be built next to the engineering center next year.
Walbro is based in Cass City, Michigan. It has subsidiaries and joint ventures throughout the world, including North and South America, Europe and Asia.
Stotz said DaimlerChrysler wanted Walbro to reproduce some of its US development facilities at a center in Europe - and 'gently persuaded' the supplier to do so.
Walbro has invested DM25 million ($14 million) in new development and testing facilities to provide a full service to its European customers, which also include Volkswagen and Volvo.
European carmakers that export to the USA are shifting from traditional fluorinated, or steel, fuel tanks to plastic coextruded (coex) multilayer tanks that reduce hydrocarbon seepage of emissions. The new tanks will help them meet tough future emission laws for passive hydrocarbon emissions in the USA.
Many of Walbro's European customers are major exporters of cars to the USA.
Richard Whitehead, regional president of Walbro Corp., expects the use of plastic coextruded tanks to increase among European carmakers. He said that at least 20 percent of Walbro's tanks produced in Europe will be plastic coextruded tanks by 2002.
Walbro currently has 17 percent of the European plastic fuel tank market. This will rise to 35 percent by 2002, based on contracts already awarded. According to Whitehead, plastic fuel tanks will make up 85 percent of the European fuel tank market by 2002, compared with the present level of 77 percent.