Tata Steel is aggressively pushing its higher-margin tailored blanks business in Europe to generate more income as steel imports from China cut into its business there.
A 4.7 million euro ($5 million) investment at the Indian company's Steelpark automotive center in Wednesfield, U.K., has added a second tailor welded blanking line to triple production. The blanks, which join different thicknesses of steel, are primarily used by premium automakers such as BMW Group.
Tata Steel wants to expand its business with volume automakers by showing them the weight-saving benefits of the technology.
"We're seeing more and more use among automakers as they look to reduce CO2 levels," said Lee Coates, head of the automotive center at Steelpark, which Tata Steel says is the U.K.'s largest steel processing and distribution center.
But it is a more expensive process, and that is hampering the sales pitch.
Tata rival ArcelorMittal, the self-proclaimed world leader in supplying laser-welded blanks, estimates that the cost of a tailor-welded door blank can be 30 percent more than the cost of the coil material used to make the door. But overall savings can range from 5 to 20 percent once the larger benefits are factored in, reflecting less factory time to weld and seam-seal the parts.