CHANGSHU, China - Two new plants opened in China by Seeber Röchling Automotive and its Chinese partner may export products to the West.
The German auto plastics supplier has just launched joint ventures to supply Volkswagen and Ford operations in China.
"We want to export," said Georg Duffner, president and CEO of the Röchling Group. "But for now the main target is to produce for the China market."
The privately held Röchling Group of Mannheim, Germany, owns Seeber Röchling Automotive.
Seeber is partnered with Changshu Automotive Trim Co. (CAIP), a privately owned supplier based in Changshu, near Shanghai.
CAIP plans to challenge multinational giants such as Visteon in the international market.
"We want to export 60 percent of our output by 2010," said CAIP owner Luo Xiaochun.
The two new ventures - Changchun Seeber Automotive Special Technology in Changchun and Changshu Seeber Automotive Special Plastics - join an earlier CAIP joint venture with Seeber set up in 1999. It makes door panels for the Jetta, Bora and Audi A4 models.
In a few weeks, CAIP will launch a venture with Intier Automotive, Magna International's auto interiors supplier, to make parts such as instrument panels and consoles.
The new ventures give CAIP a chance to win more contracts from Seeber and Magna customers, which include every major Euro-pean and US automaker.
Many Chinese companies, especially private companies such as CAIP, want to be more than just low-cost manufacturers for overseas suppliers. They are aggressively laying the foundation to become exporters in their own right.
CAIP has hired Todd Fortner, a former Visteon sales manager in China, as president.
Property theft fears
Seeber will bring new plastics products and technologies to the joint ventures, said Klaus Greinert, chairman of Röchling Group's supervisory board. Despite worries about intellectual property theft, "there is no other way" but to bring the new technology to China, he said.
Currently, Visteon is the only supplier in China that can handle an entire automotive interior program from design to modeling to manufacturing. CAIP wants to match that and is vastly expanding its research and development capability.
CAIP's modest technology center has 35 engineers in one room, but it is building a new facility. By 2010, it will hold 200 engineers. They will do testing and product development, said Xu Jun, the center's director and an ex-Visteon employee.