Mitsubishi buys German automotive composite-part supplier

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Japanese materials firm Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd. (MRC) has acquired a majority stake in Wethje Holding GmbH, a German producer of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) for the auto market.

Wethje currently is owned by Austrian industrial form Cross Industries AG. No purchase price for the 51 percent stake in Wethje that MRC is buying was included in an Aug. 15 news release announcing the deal.

Cross — based in Wels, Austria — employs 3,900 and posted sales of more than $1.1 billion in 2013. Separate employee and sales totals for Hengersberg, Germany-based Wethje were unavailable.

In the release, officials with Tokyo-based MRC said that the European auto industry, with its innovative center in Germany, “moves towards a full-scale adoption of CFRP parts.”

As an example, officials cited BMW’s i3 electric vehicle, which uses CFRP parts for the complete vehicle structure.

“This development, together with stricter environmental policies, means a further strong push towards an increasing use of CFRP technology within the automotive industry,” they said.

Wethje was founded in 1979 and uses both autoclave technology on small scale production and RTM technology for mid-scale serial production, MRC officials said, adding that MRC “will build a solid partnership with Cross by jointly owning Wethje on a long-term basis.”

MRC will use Wethje as a development and production base for CFRP parts and will further strengthen the supply chain of the carbon fiber intermediates business for auto applications in Europe, officials said.

MRC employs more than 9,000 worldwide. Its plastic products include acrylic resin and sheet.