STERLING HEIGHTS, MICH. - Gifu Seiki U.S.A. Inc., a Japanese-owned tooling company, is building a 45,000-square-foot plant in Sterling Heights, where it plans to make medium- and large-scale injection molds for the automotive industry. The mold builder, a unit of Gifu Die & Mold Engineering of Gifu City, Japan, plans to open its new plant Jan. 8.
In Japan, Gifu's largest customer is Toyota Motor Corp., said Andrew Batz, senior project engineer. In Sterling Heights, Gifu expects to continue its work with Japanese-owned automakers and expand its business to domestic car companies.
At start-up, about a dozen or more people would be working in Sterling Heights, including toolmakers and engineers. By year end, Gifu expects a work force of 50-60 people. General Manager Kenny Taniuchi will head the Detroit operation.
Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, reported that the U.S. operation will cost about $10 million. Gifu Seiki U.S.A. projected first-year sales of $8 million.
In a related development, two leading Japanese mold makers have begun exchanging design information with U.S., European and Australian automakers via high-speed data links, said The Nikkei Weekly.
Citing officials of Miyazu Seisakusho Co. and Fuji Technica Inc., the newspaper said the Japanese mold builders hope to offset slack domestic demand by selling molds overseas.
Miyazu Seisakusho is exchanging mold shape-data with Rover Group Ltd. of the United Kingdom and Saab Automobile AB of Sweden. Fuji Technica is linking up with the Australian unit of Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. in the United States via satellite.
Lear Seating opens blow molding plant
CONCORD, ONTARIO - Lear Seating Corp. officially opened a new blow molding facility Dec. 6 in the Toronto suburb of Concord to replace two plants in nearby Weston.
The 150,000-square-foot facility houses 30 blow molding machines Lear moved from the Weston operations to save costs and allow higher production. It makes auto parts such as windshield washer bottles, radiator reservoirs, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts for Chrysler, Ford and General Motors vehicles. Officials were unavailable to provide cost details.
The Concord facility employs about 300. Lear began construction of the facility a year ago on the 10-acre site and said the plant offers future expansion opportunity. Lear expects its sales, including those from Automotive Industries Holding Inc. operations it bought recently, to reach $4 billion this year.
Riddell settles helmet liability lawsuit
CHICAGO - Football helmet maker Riddell Sports Inc. said it has settled a product liability lawsuit that dates to 1988, when the family of an injured high school football player sued the company.
In 1994, a jury in Wichita, Kan., awarded the plaintiffs $8 million, but the company appealed. Riddell would not disclose the amount of the settlement, but said it was less than the amount awarded.
Riddell Sports, through its Riddell Inc. subsidiary in Chicago, makes helmets with shells injection molded of polycarbonate and energy-absorbing padding inside.
Concerns over product liability dramatically have reduced the number of U.S. manufacturers of football helmets over the years, from more than a dozen firms 15 years ago to just a few today.
DuPont Films plans venture in China
FOSHAN, CHINA - Press reports in China last week said DuPont Co. has signed an agreement to establish a joint venture to make polyester film in Foshan, in China's Guangdong province.
The venture will be named Du Pont Hongji Film Foshan Co. Ltd., according to the report in the official Xinhau news agency.
A DuPont spokeswoman confirmed the news report about the venture Dec. 7. Michael Hartnagel, vice president and general manager of DuPont Films, was in China and unavailable for comment, a spokeswoman said.
DuPont is North America's largest manufacturer of film and sheet, with sales of $1.3 billion, according to Plastics News data.
The Chinese press report said the venture will mark the first time a foreign company has invested in polyester film production in China.