Wu Hongbo, China's ambassador for Germany (second from left), in March visited Dr. Schneider Group’s headquarters plant in Kronach, Germany. (Dr. Schneider Group photo)
BEIJING (May 1, 3:30 p.m. ET) — German automotive plastics supplier Dr. Schneider Group officially opened its first Asian plant April 26 in the northeastern Chinese city of Liaoyang. Company leaders discussed the development on the day prior in Beijing, where the firm was exhibiting at the Automotive News China Conference.
The facility will begin by assembling plastic molded cosmetic mirrors for two lines of BMW cars – the 3 Series and 5 Series – said Klaus Fricke, president and CEO of Dr. Schneider Holding GmbH. Fricke said his firm has rented space in an existing facility from a local partner, and refitted it to match the layout of its other plants in Germany and elsewhere. The group has been represented in China for many years by a sales and sourcing office.
Yubo Wang has been named managing director of the Chinese operation, officially named Dr. Schneider Automotive Parts (Liaoyang) Co. Ltd.
The hinged housings for the mirrors are made from a polycarbonate/ABS resin blend, and are ceiling mounted in the vehicles. Fricke said he anticipates output of 12,000 mirrors a month from the Liaoyang plant. The components will be imported from Germany until the company starts molding them in China.
Plans are to invest 2.5 million euros in the new facility by the end of 2014, he said. Phase two of the project will involve installing an unspecified number of injection molding presses within the same time frame. Dr. Schneider currently runs 353 injection presses worldwide and uses primarily KraussMaffei and Engel models. The project’s third phase will add painting capabilities – but not before 2015, Fricke said.
The new plant now has about 30 assembly workstations and began training workers and installing equipment in December. Fricke says the Chinese workers are every bit as good, quality-wise, as their German counterparts. He expects the plant to employ a work force of 100 once the operation adds molding capabilities.
The resin is at least as expensive in China as is Europe, Fricke noted, but he still does not rule out the possibility that the China plant eventually could mold and assemble parts such as the mirrors and cost-effectively ship them back to Germany. The goal is for the group to make in Liaoyang all the components that it produces for the Chinese market, he said.
Based in the Bavarian town of Kronach-Neuses, Dr. Schneider Group makes a variety automotive components such as air vent systems, cup holders, door frames, center consoles and instrument panel modules. Founded in 1927 and still family owned, the firm counts as customers automakers such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar/Land Rover, Mercedes, Porsche and Rolls-Royce. It has production at four plants in Germany, as well as in Brazil, Slovakia, Spain, Poland and the United States.
The company continues to look to emerging markets for growth. As previously reported by Automotive News Europe, Dr. Schneider in late January confirmed plans to invest another 2.5 million euros to build a new, 100-employee plant in Zacatecas, Mexico. Construction will begin this fall, with production due to start next spring. Fricke confirmed those plans remain on track, and that the Mexico plant will be affiliated with the company’s U.S. factory in Howell, Mich.
Dr. Schneider Group reported a 12.1 percent increase in 2011 sales, to 314 million euros ($415 million), from 280 million euros in 2010. The company employs about 2,800 employees worldwide.