By Stephen Downer, Plastics News Correspondent
Mexico City -- Daimler Trucks North America llc, of Portland, Oregon, which opened a $300-million manufacturing complex in Saltillo, northern Mexico, in January, is looking for local suppliers of moulded plastic and other parts.
"We are relocating suppliers from the US to Mexico and also developing new suppliers in Mexico close to the plant," Mark Hernández, manager of the Saltillo complex, said last week at a two-day conference in Mexico City organized by Mexico's suppliers association, the Industria Nacional de Autopartes AC (INA).
Other executives spoke about opportunities available to plastic processors in Mexico, including Randall Pappal, executive director, GPS-HVAC electrical components for General Motors Corp. Mexico, who said GM already buys $6200 million worth of supplies in Mexico "and we want to increase this."
Arturo Cortés, purchasing director, Nissan Mexicana, said his company wants to source PVC co-extruded parts, painted blow moulded items, as well as insulation and foams, plastic and rubber compounds and fuel system tubing.
Thomas Karig, vice president of corporate relations and strategy for Volkswagen de México, told the conference that Volkswagen AG spent $100 000 million with suppliers across the world in 2008 "but only 4.2 percent was sourced from North America," including Mexico.
Asked whether suppliers in Mexico will benefit from the opening of Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant, Karig replied: "The expectation is that Mexican suppliers will do well because they already have business with Volkswagen in North America and because of Mexico's geographical location."
According to Automotive News, Volkswagen purchasing officials have already sourced $238 million in local annual parts contracts for the mid-sized VW sedan to be built in Chattanooga beginning in 2011. That contract value represents only vehicle components that will come from suppliers within a two-three hour drive from the Chattanooga plant, in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
Despite Volkswagen's plans for Chattanooga, Karig said the Volkswagen plant in Puebla, 75 miles southeast of the Mexican capital, "will continue to be the main centre of development and production for Volkswagen in North America."
The Puebla plant assembled 450 000 vehicles last year but Karig said production this year is unlikely to top 300 000, due to the global economic downturn.
Ramzi Hermiz, senior vice president, vehicle safety and protection systems for Federal Mogul Group, and Gabriel Kohn, global sourcing director for Navistar Corp., also saw opportunities for Mexico-based suppliers.
In an interview with Plastics News, Daimler Trucks' Hernández stressed that the interiors of modern trucks and tractor-trailers, from the dashboard to side panels, are made almost entirely of moulded plastic.
Daimler produces Freightliner's Class 8 Cascadia for US, Canadian and Mexican markets in Saltillo, where the plant has an annual production capacity of 30 000 vehicles.
Saltillo is the second Daimler Trucks manufacturing facility in Mexico. The company's Santiago Tianguistenco plant, near Mexico City, produces Freightliner heavy- and medium-duty trucks for Latin America, the US and Canada.
Daimler plans to move production of its Western Star-branded trucks from Portland to Santiago Tianguistenco in June, when manufacturing in Portland will cease.