CIUDAD SAHAGUN, MEXICO - Pl sticos Automotrices Dina SA de CV and Dina Composites SA de CV are investing in new processes and equipment to expand their roles as custom molders. The firms, subsidiaries of Consorcio G Grupo Dina SA de CV, Mexico's leading bus and truck maker, are growing despite Mexico's deepening economic crisis.
Dina shut down manufacturing for 60 days beginning in February because of the contracting market for heavy vehicles in Mexico.
However, the plastics plants at Dina's Ciudad Sahag£n manufacturing complex, which together posted sales of just more than $7 million in 1994, have won new outside contracts.
``We need to work very hard to get new [automotive] business,'' said Carlos Yurr-ita, general manager of both the Padsa and Dicomsa plants, who worked 12 years for Ford at its Mexican assembly plant in Cuautitl n.
Domestic heavy vehicle sales in Febru-ary slid 83.6 percent compared with the same month last year, following January's 84.8 percent fall, according to Anpact, the national truck/bus producers association.
Padsa, which continues to build up its own truck part inventory, has invested heavily in preparation for a major new contract to produce sheet molding compound hoods and deck lids for Chrysler Corp.'s new JX-27 car project.
On the strength of the new Chrysler business, Padsa has invested nearly $6 million, including installation of a second, $2.1 million, 3,000-ton press in September, a new $1 million trim press and a $2.7 million GEC-Ahistom paint tunnel.
In addition to speed production for Chrysler, the plant is due to install new quick mold-change equipment worth nearly $1 million for its three big machines, Padsa's projects and purchasing manager Gabriel Toscana Videgaray said. Padsa installed three Japanese-made robots to drill truck hoods two years ago, and was due to buy three more for precision bonding of the car parts.
Volume output of 70,000 parts a year for the 1996 Chrysler model, which is aimed mainly at North American and European export markets, will start in mid-June, says Toscana. Two more shifts will be added to the current 50-strong Padsa work force.
In addition to the Dina truck hoods, the plant already has been compression molding tailgates for Ram Charger vehicles and has built up a three-month inventory.
``We don't want to stand still. Three years ago our production here was zero. Now we're producing truck hoods and at the end of the year, production will be nine times greater,'' said Toscana.
On the strength of the Chrysler deal, Padsa now hopes to win similar business from Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp.
The Dina plants are considering any suitable business to in-crease use of its new capacity. The Chrysler business will only occupy one third of the new paint tunnel capacity, for example, so new work is essential.
Toscana said the plant also is pursuing agricultural tractor parts work from Ford New Holland Inc. of New Holland, Pa. Although the Padsa plant majors on automotive work, it has bought a mold to make SMC kitchen sinks.
The plant now operates three presses with 500 tons of clamping force, one with 3,000 tons and another with 1,500 tons. All the SMC comes from Budd Co. of Troy, Mich., from whom Dina licenses the process technology, Toscana said.
Meanwhile, the Dina Composites hand layup plant, which was separated from the Dina plastics parts company last year to enable each to be competitive, also is winning new custom business.
One major contract is the conversion of 500 pickup trucks to closed camper-type service vehicles for Mexico's giant telephone company, Telefonos de Mexico. Assembly includes metalwork, toolboxes, carpets, lights, and wiring.
While work for Dina's bus division, Dina Autobuses, has almost ground to a halt, Dicomsa does produce large fiberglass interior units like a complete bus bathroom. It also has a prototype sleeper cab for Dina trucks.
Dicomsa is actively seeking new work for Dina's new U.S. subsidiary, Motor Coach Industries, and General Motors has shown interest in using the plant for parts work, Toscana said.
The plant invested $4.25 million in new Canon polyurethane reaction injection molding machines to make parts including fascias for the bus line. But this has not been used since the market slump.
Both plastics plants are aggressively hunting down fresh custom business.
``We need to bring in new business. Once you sell, producing it is not that difficult. We're more than willing to get into new things,'' Toscana said.
``We're already in resin transfer molding, polyurethane reaction injection molding, SMC and we vacuum form ABS panels. If we have the business, we'll invest.''
The firms predict combined sales of nearly $15 million for this year and $18.1 million for 1996 on present prospects.