The head of a US supplier says eastern Europe is a potentially more attractive investment location than China, the world's fastest-growing auto market.
"If you read the statistics and look at the comparisons ... there's as much to be said for eastern Europe as there is for Asia," said Tim Nelson, president and chief operating officer of Key Plastics.
Nelson says the region's selling factors are its intellectual property protection and regulatory stability.
Key will build an E14.5 million auto supply plant in Slovakia. The company already supplies PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and South Korea's Kia, which are building plants in Slovakia.
A 350-employee plant in Dolny Kubin will be the company's second molding operation in eastern Europe, making parts for the growing ranks of carmakers in the region.
Key, of Northville, Michigan, supplies door handles, underhood components, decorative trim and radio bezels.
After bouncing back from near bankruptcy four years ago, the company has invested in developing new products, such as a proprietary washer reservoir filler cap. It has patents pending on other parts that give it chances to grow organically through increased sales to existing customers.
Key grew through a series of acquisitions in the 1990s, then suffered a heavy debt load that landed it in Chapter 11 in 2000.