DETROIT - Inalfa Roof Systems Group is launching its first sunroof production in China for General Motors and the Chrysler group.
The launch of its sunroof programs this month for the Cadillac SLS and the January launch of the Chrysler 300 for China are the early fruits of Inalfas effort to penetrate the China market, says Michael Smith, executive vice president for business development at the Dutch companys North American operations.
Sunroofs are a popular option in China for buyers of full-sized luxury sedans. About 80 percent select the option, Smith says. But the installation rate for small cars in China is low, he says.
Property theft fears
Inalfas contracts with GM and Chrysler could bring to five the number of booked sunroof orders obtained from automakers in China.
The company, which is based in Venray, Netherlands, also has contracts to supply a Nissan model for China and domestic Chinese vehicles, Smith says.
He says Inalfa expects to produce a combined 15,000 to 25,000 sunroofs annually for the SLS and 300. The Cadillac will be built at GMs Shanghai plant and the Chrysler at the automakers Beijing plant.
Inalfas move to manufacture in China is notable because it is a case of a relatively small Western company going it alone in a country known for red tape, counterfeit parts and other threats that have stymied larger companies.
Smith says Inalfa was concerned about intellectual-property theft as it contemplated the move into China. We negotiated with several potential [joint-venture partners] but decided to go it alone, he says.
Smith says the company will employ Chinese subsuppliers to help Inalfa to export Chinese-made parts to its plants around the world.
Privately held Inalfa Roof Systems posted global sales in 2005 of about 360 million.