PRAGUE -- Valeo wants to build more complete air-conditioning modules for its automaker customers.
Full production starts this month at a E45 million Zexel Valeo greenfield air-conditioning compressor factory in Humpolec, Czech Republic. That gives France-based Valeo the ability to completely produce air-conditioning modules within the country.
Besides compressors from Zexel, the other components can be made at Valeo's three other Czech sites: air conditioning systems in Rakovnik, evaporators and heat exchangers in Zebrak, and a control-panel design center in Prague. The sites range from 1,100 employees in Rakovnik to 40 in Prague.
"Five years ago, there were only heaters in Rakovnik. It is a question of how to expand value to the customer," said Christina Evans, managing director for Valeo Climate Control in the Czech Republic.
Valeo wants to provide bigger modules, but there is no consensus on what an air-conditioing module should contain. Valeo already supplies Opel with an air-conditioning module assembled in Rakovnik that includes ventilator, filter, evaporator, heat exchanger, air directors and condenser - all sourced within Valeo.
But a new module nearing production for Volkswagen may be more typical: it contains the ventilator, filter, evaporator, heat exchanger and air directors, but the condenser comes from a separate supplier.
"Some manufacturers are not equipped to take a complete package. They need it in smaller blocks," said Evans.
Another limit on order sizes is Volkswagen group's three-supplier purchasing policy.
The new Humpolec plant is the first European venture by Zexel Valeo. Zexel Valeo is a joint venture 60 percent owned by Germany's Robert Bosch Automotive Systems and 40 percent by Valeo Climatisation. Other production facilities are in Japan and Thailand.
There are 148 people working at the Humpolec facility, said spokeswoman Petra Vaculova. Zexel Valeo expects to employ 475 workers by 2005 when production is to peak at 1 million units annually. The new facility will supply compressors to the Volkswagen group and hopes to win contracts with other automakers.