MEXICO CITY - An integrated Mexican automotive parts supplier that has steered a successful course through the worst of Mexico's latest economic crisis is investing in new extrusion and calendering equipment. Grupo Oplex SA de CV of Mexico City plans to install a new, US$2 million polypropylene extrusion line early next year at its plant at Azcapotzalco. It will include a 41/2-inch extrusion line and heavy-duty, three-roll calender stack for 60-inch-wide sheet and film.
The line also can be used for producing polystyrene or polyethylene sheet or film. The move is designed to add PP technology to serve the book-binding and vacuum forming industries.
The firm does not plan to place a final order for the new line for a couple of months, until it concludes a study of available equipment, said Javier Kassel, sales manager of the group's other firm, Aeroplex SA de CV. The line should start operating in the first quarter of 1997.
After that, Oplex also plans to invest US$5 million to modernize the plant's existing calendering facility, which will double its vinyl film and sheet output.
The Oplex plant, which makes vinyl-laminated fabrics, and printed and embossed vinyl film for the auto industry, just completed a US$3 million investment to modernize its textile plant.
On the plastics side, the plant already operates a compounding line and an 86-inch-wide calendering unit. It turns out finished products including vinyl tarpaulins for tents, trucks and awnings; printed vinyl tablecloths, wall coverings, shower curtains and book-binding material.
The Oplex plant already supplies vinyl material for vehicle seating to car giants in Mexico, including Nissan and Volkswagen AG. Oplex wants to add General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. to its client list.
With the home market still depressed after Mexico's Decem-ber 1994 peso devaluation crisis, the company is looking increasingly to exports. The Oplex plant already exports its book-binding material. Central and South American markets look promising for its products, Kassel said.
The group already promotes its products in the United States through English-language bro-chures and contacts in San Diego.
``We are having to export because that's the only way to survive,'' said Mario Mauser Emus, Grupo Oplex's chief executive officer.
The vinyl tablecloths that Oplex manufactures and sells to Mexican wholesalers represent just 20 percent of its total work but provide it with a valuable income boost.
But the Azcapotzalco unit also serves the Aeroplex plant, just north of the capital in Mexico state, which manufactures vehicle armrests and sun visors.
It produces some products under license from Textron Automotive Inc. Main customers for Aeroplex in recent years have included Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG.
The Aeroplex plant, founded in 1964, employs about 300 at a big complex in the Tlalnepantla industrial district. Plant processing capabilities include foam production, rotomolding, injection molding, wire-frame fabrication, welding and assembly.
Kassel is pursuing new business with North American automakers. From his point of view, Aeroplex offers a solid track record of successful manufacturing in Mexico and has established ties with local authorities.
``We know how to deal with the Mexican government very well,'' Kassel said. ``We're set up. All a partner has to do is bring technology.''
Grupo Oplex has weathered Mexican economic crises in 1976, 1982 and is again surviving this time, it claims, because of its highly conservative financial stra-tegy. It combines vertical integration of manufacturing and internal funding of expansion projects.
``We learned from experience that you have to grow with your own resources,'' according to Kassel.
The group has avoided bank credit and the risk of interest-rate fluctuations.
In the latest recession, Oplex built up a big inventory of raw materials before the devaluation.