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 U.S. supplier to become 'a full systems-development partner in Germany.'
Stotz said the new engineering center would let the carmaker 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,' he said.
Walbro will supply fuel tanks for the Mercedes-Benz C class and E class from a plant that will be built next to the engineering center next year.
Walbro is based in Cass City, Mich. It has subsidiaries and joint ventures throughout the world, including North and South America, Europe and Asia. Automotive News ranks Walbro as the 130th-largest supplier of original equipment to North America
Stotz said DaimlerChrysler wanted Walbro to reproduce some of its U.S. development facilities at a center in Europe and 'gently persuaded' the supplier to do so.
Walbro has invested 25 million marks (about $14.8 million at current exchange rates) 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 United States are shifting from traditional fluorinated, or steel, fuel tanks to plastic coextruded 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 United States.
Many of Walbro's European customers are major exporters of cars to the United States.
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.