FINDLAY INDUSTRIES OPENING FACILITY IN POLAND

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DETROIT—Findlay Industries Inc. will open a plant in Tomaszöw Mazowiecki, Poland, in March to compression mold automotive door and interior trim components that feature a new thermoplastic composite material developed by the company.

The 70,000-square-foot plant will make modular door and quarter trim panels for Saab 900 hatchbacks and convertibles, and headliners for a new Opel model sold in Europe by General Motors Corp. Both the Saab and Opel plants are in Poland.

The plant has been under construction since the beginning of the year, according to a company source who did not want to be identified. The parts will be used by Saab and Opel for vehicles coming out this spring.

The just-in-time European plant represents the first site outside North America for the interior systems supplier.

The Findlay, Ohio, company operates 19 other plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The Saab panels will use a new material created by Findlay engineers called LoPreFin. The composite uses natural fibers compounded with polypropylene to create lightweight panels — as thin as 2 millimeters — that maintain dimensional stability under high temperatures.

Using a compression molding process, the LoPreFin substrate and fabric cover skin can be formed, bonded and trimmed in a single operation. By eliminating hand-trimming and forming processes, the company can reduce assembly costs significantly, the Findlay source said.

The Saab panels are the first use of the LoPreFin material by a carmaker.

The company would not disclose the number of presses at its Eastern European plant or the clamping force used to mold the parts.

The Opel headliners will be molded using Findlay's ProBond material, made from natural fibers and urethane.

The plant, which will employ 90 by the end of the year, also expects to include a cut-and-sew process to produce soft interior trim parts.

Findlay also specializes in automotive interior components, such as seats, parcel shelves and sleeper cabs. The privately held company recorded 1996 sales of $500 million.

The company plans to expand operations in the Poland facility to work with other carmakers in Europe. Findlay's LoPreFin material can be used in a variety of interior parts, including package trays, consoles and spare tire covers.