Plastics News reporter John Couretas gathered the following reports from the Aug. 7-11 University of Michigan Management Briefings Seminars.
The European auto industry is becoming a battleground, said Noel Goutard, chairman and chief executive officer of Valeo SA, a $5.5 billion French parts supplier.
He said the next five years will be among the most difficult in the company's history.
``For its part, the European automotive components industry is regrouping,'' he said. ``Big eats small. American suppliers are taking over medium-sized firms.''
Worldwide, automakers and suppliers have too much capacity. Emerging markets, such as Asia and South America, have already been largely pre-empted by major international firms and local enterprises, Goutard said.
``The die is almost cast, leaving little room for maneuver for the other dozen contenders waiting at the gate,'' he said.
BMW's U.S. facility focuses on flexibility
BMW's new plant in South Carolina, the automaker's first outside Germany, was designed from the ground up as a flexible factory that could produce a number of different low-volume vehicles, said Al Kinzer, BMW Manufacturing U.S.A. president.
That doesn't necessarily mean a lot of robots and high-tech wizardry on the factory floor.
``We have chosen to rely more on the human, at the moment, rather than automation,'' he said.
The plant was opened after ``one of the fastest start-ups in history,'' he said. The new facility was producing vehicles only 23 months after construction began. BMW is building the 318i model in South Carolina and is preparing for a September launch of an all-new roadster.