Molders of plastics and glass fiber parts for the auto industry in northern Mexico may win new business from a Monterrey bus assembly plant set up by Blue Bird Corp. of Fort Valley, Ga. Initially, the US$10 million plant of Blue Bird de Mexico SA de CV of Apodaca, just north of Monterrey, will require fiberglass windshield transition panels for school minibuses that it will begin assembling in November.
These 18-seat Micro Bird vehicles are being produced for export to Texas and neighboring U.S. states.
But molders in and around Monterrey who can match the part quality required by this 3,000-vehicle-a-year bus plant can look forward to bigger business in a few years, said General Manager Tony Sellier.
Blue Bird also intends to source front and rear body panels for full-sized transit buses, destined for the Mexican market, from local molders.
The plant plans to start production of this model in about two years, Sellier said in a telephone interview.
The body sections, comprising several parts of ABS, fiberglass and maybe other plastics, will help ``give the vehicles a modern appearance,'' he said.
The Apodaca plant has produced conventional 51-seat urban buses since it started up in late March.
The facility was formally inaugurated by Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo during a tour of northeast Mexico in mid-September.
Blue Bird already is talking to several potential local suppliers of fiberglass and plastics suppliers ready for next month's minibus line start-up. But, he admits, the quality has been initially a little disappointing.
The minibus parts business, Sellier estimates, could be worth around US$500,000 a year. The later work will be worth much more.
Local parts sourcing is a top priority for the plant.
Blue Bird de Mexico is selling its urban buses in Caribbean and Central American nations including Haiti, Guatemala, Panama and Honduras. It aims to raise export sales to 50 percent of total business within two years, Sellier said.
He sees the Mexican market for modern, efficient and competitively priced buses long term as very big, although demand during the current crisis has slowed.
``Central and South America represent a vibrant market, and it is getting better,'' he said.