MEXICO CITY - Japanese auto safety parts supplier Takata Corp. has opened a US$3.5 million plant in Guadalajara, Mexico, to produce 1 million air bags and 500,000 seat belt systems a year. The Takata de Mexico SA de CV plant, inaugurated this month, has begun life as a simple maquiladora operation sewing nylon air bag cushions for the U.S. plants of the company's North American subsidiary, Takata Inc. of Auburn Hills, Mich.
However, next year the Guadalajara unit is due to start producing complete seat belt sets for Mexican auto plants. The company tentatively plans to mold polyolefin air bag covers and produce complete air bag modules, said plant manager Ernesto Weber. But that will not happen for at least three years.
Meanwhile, Takata de Mexico is beginning a search for suitable local suppliers of molded plastic and other parts for future use in products made in Guadalajara.
``We're strongly looking into localizing parts [supply],'' Weber said.
He said the search will begin at a special event being staged next month by Secofi, Mexico's Trade and Industry Ministry, in Mexico City. The meeting is aimed at matching automakers in Mexico with suitable local parts suppliers.
Seat belts require injection molded parts including bucklecovers and several parts inside the belt retractor unit. Complete air bag modules need plastic covers for the bag and inflator unit, Weber said.
``Obviously, the quality requirements that the automotive industry has are very strict, especially in terms of security equipment,'' he said. ``We have to be sure that we have the right supplier.''
Guadalajara was chosen since it is centrally placed for a number of automotive customers, including Honda, which is nearby, according to Takata Inc. spokesman Scott Upham.
Upham added that the facility currently supplies air bag cushions for clients in the United States, including General Motors Corp.
When the plant is completely up and running, the company expects half its sales to come from the Mexican automotive market, with the other 50 percent from other parts of Latin America. The plant, which next year plans to employ 300 - currently it has 80 employees - aims to sell US$7.5 million worth of auto parts a year.
Takata Inc. already had two maquiladora operations in Mexico assembling seat belt systems for the U.S. market.