LONG BEACH, CALIF. - Japanese manufacturers of injection molding machines are working to boost their status in Mexico, a promising but challenging market. U.S. producers dominate the Mexican market for plastics machinery, with a 43 percent share, according to a recent report issued in Mexico City by the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. The report, which looked at Mexican imports of all plastic machines, not just injection presses, said Japanese suppliers are minor players in Mexico, with less than 5 percent of the market. Besides the United States, Japan also trails Germany, Italy, Taiwan and Brazil.
At the Western Plastics Exposition in Long Beach, officials of three major Japanese suppliers of injection molding machines agreed that Japan is not a major force in Mexico.
Nissei Plastic Industrial Corp. Ltd. has been the most aggressive Japanese press maker to sell in Mexico. A few years ago, Nissei opened an office in Mexico City to handle sales and distribution and serve as a technical center. It operates independently of Nissei's U.S. unit in Anaheim, Calif., Nissei America Inc.
Shoichi Imai, a Nissei director, said during a Feb. 15 interview at Nissei's WPE booth that Japanese machinery makers shipped 120 injection molding machines from Japan to Mexico in 1994 - 90 of them Nisseis. The Commerce Department study did not give unit numbers.
That is a relatively small number of machines, Imai said. And 1995 will be a difficult year, as Mexico struggles to rebound from the peso devaluation that has jacked up the price of imported goods, including machines, he said. But Imai is hoping the Mexican economy will improve late in the year.
Toshiba Machine Co. America of Elk Grove Village, Ill., sells presses mainly to Japanese transplant factories in Mexico, said Tim Glassburn, vice president of the firm's Plastic Machinery Division. Toshiba sold 20-30 machines to Mexico in 1994.
All machinery suppliers-from any country - complain about the availability of financing in Mexico, a situation made worse by the peso's fall and higher interest rates. At the last major U.S. plastics trade show, Plastics Fair-Tex/Mex in Houston in November, Toshiba announced a program to give firms an alternative to Mexican bank financing for buying or leasing machines.
U.S.-made machines enjoy tariff advantages over machines from Japan, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement. But Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., represented by MC Mach-inery Systems Inc. of Wood Dale, Ill., plans to even the playing field this year. Mitsubishi announced at WPE that it has begun assembling injection presses in Hopkinsville, Ky. Full production should begin this spring. Mitsubishi expects to build 80-90 MJ II series presses this year.
Officials of JSW Plastics Machinery Inc. said the company, based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is not active in Mexico.
``It is so difficult to go down there, especially if you don't have an office there. It's difficult to get information,'' said William Roebuck, vice president and national sales manager.