Dutch supplier Polynorm Automotive NV is investing more than E 50 million in a new German engineering and production center at Schwaebisch-Gmuend, near Stuttgart.
The new center will design, develop and produce large bodywork components such as skin panels. Polynorm says there has been 'explosive' growth in outsourced body-in-white components.
'There is a strong trend to outsource bodywork business, especially for lower-volume models,' said Robert Schliekemann, vice president of marketing strategy at Polynorm Automotive.
'Below 100,000 units a year, very large body parts cause inefficiency problems in the OEM press shop,' said Schliekemann.
But because of the increasing popularity of niche models, mostly differentiated by body style, there is a growing demand for these large exterior parts, he said.
'There is a general trend in the industry for carmakers to ask us to take more responsibility for development,' said Schliekemann.
Carmakers are involving body panel suppliers much more in their long-term planning, said Schliekemann. In the past, carmakers would call up and ask a supplier to take over a component with just three months' notice. 'But now, there is a long-term commitment and plan,' said Schliekemann. .
There is also a demand for a wider range of aftermarket parts. Traditionally these have been outsourced by European carmakers.
Production at Polynorm's new German facility is due to start in August 2001. DaimlerChrysler will be the first customer to buy components from the site.
Polynorm said the Schwaebisch-Gmuend site is also well located to serve Ford, BMW and Volkswagen group.
The site will include a new advanced press line from Mueller Weingarten, Polynorm says, and will be the largest stamping production line at any supplier plant in Europe, according to the company.
Initially the site will employ about 500 people, but Polynorm says that number could grow to 1,000 with more sub-assembly and engineering capability in the future.
The site will be the base for Polynorm Grau, a subsidiary that specializes in the design, manufacture, trials and prototyping of stamping equipment.
Polynorm expects to have sales of E350 million in its core automotive business in 2000, compared with E189.5 million in 1999. Growth is partly organic and partly due to the November 1999 purchase of Delwal Corp., a supplier steel press parts to the US automotive industry.
Delwal has annual sales of about E60 million. Polynorm has been developing its North American business, said Schliekemann, because 'key customers have
operations on both sides of the Atlantic.'