TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Faurecia, a giant in interior parts, is setting its sights on exteriors.
The French supplier believes there is opportunity in bumper fascias, hoods and front-end modules in North America, says Mike Heneka, president of Faurecia North America.
"A couple of automakers are asking us to get in," Heneka said at of the 2013 CAR Management Briefing Seminars here. "We spent the past two weeks in meetings with OEMs on it."
But Heneka is frank about Faurecia's outlook: Before expanding into exteriors, he wants firm long-term commitments from customers.
"We're No. 1 in exteriors in Europe -- we're last in North American exteriors," Heneka says. "It's a very captive market here now, and the automakers would love for us to come in, be it Mexico or the United States."
Producing bumper fascias inside an auto plant, as companies such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda do, is challenging because such production requires ample space and clean, dust-free environments.
And it's an expensive business to enter, Heneka says, requiring an investment of about $30 million for one plant. It would take more than a single model cycle to pay off the investment.
Also, bumper fascias are delicate and should be produced near the vehicle assembly line. And that would mean investing in individual plants for single customers in some cases.
"One-customer facilities are always risky," the executive says. "But the auto companies recognize all this, and we're discussing how we could do it."
At the same time, Faurecia has invested in manufacturing of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, and Heneka believes its U.S. customers will ask for more carbon-fiber body panels in order to cut vehicle weight.
The supplier also envisions more front-end module production. It is active in that segment in Europe, but barely so in North America, Heneka says.
The company last year added $1.3 billion in North American sales, primarily from interiors. Heneka forecasts North American sales of $7 billion in 2016.
Faurecia ranks No. 7 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $22.5 billion in 2012. In North America, the company posted $6.1 billion in sales to automakers in 2012, according to the Automotive News Data Center.