TOKYO -- Japan's Toray Industries Inc., the world's largest supplier of carbon fiber, has taken a 21 percent stake in a German rival to begin producing lightweight auto parts in Europe.
Toray bought its share in ACE Advanced Composite Engineering GmbH last month, the Tokyo-based company said in a release. It did not disclose how much it paid.
The deal combines Torays low-cost volume production technology with ACEs specialty in molding, forming and machining of carbon fiber reinforced plastics. Toray is expanding into carbon fiber car parts as automakers worldwide seek new ways to slash vehicle weight.
Carbon fiber holds potential for weight reduction because it is stronger and lighter than steel. By some estimates, a car's weight could be halved if carbon fiber composites are swapped for steel in such parts as hoods, roofs, fenders, body panels, wheels, radiator panels and propeller shafts.
But the high cost of carbon fiber has prevented widespread use.
ACE, of Immenstaad, has been making carbon fiber reinforced plastic parts for high-end vehicles since 2001. Toray wants to combine ACEs high-spec expertise with Torays resin transfer molding technology, which can support volumes of 10,000 vehicles a year.
Toray accounts for 30 percent of the worlds carbon fiber output. It opened a $24.3 million automotive center in Nagoya last year.
It seeks to develop low-cost carbon fiber composites for body panels and hybrid vehicles.