ATS Group wants to become a major player in the North American original-equipment aluminum wheel market by manufacturing in Alabama. Its plant in Auburn is the first U.S. venture for ATS, a global wheel producer with operations in Europe, China and South Africa.
The company is 26 percent privately controlled and 74 percent owned by Tiger Wheels Ltd., a company traded publicly on the South African stock exchange. Staff Reporter Lindsay Chappell spoke with Eddie Keizan, CEO of Tiger Wheels, at the U.S. plant.
You chose a U.S. manufacturing site instead of importing these wheels from overseas. But why not produce in Mexico?
We watched some of our competitors go into Mexico, and we've observed that they have had some problems. We got some free education watching them.
But with so much price pressure from the automakers today, didn't you feel you could overcome the problems in exchange for lower labor costs?
Labor costs are certainly an important issue for us. But more important is the cost of technology. We're very reliant on advanced technology and automation. It becomes quite expensive in Mexico to develop the technical skills we need to do this.