Two plastic sheet companies have teamed up to meet carmakers' global demands for vinyl dashboards, door panels, consoles and other interior trim. O'Sullivan Corp. and Solvay SA have formed an alliance to market each other's sheet products, share research and development and collaborate on trim applications for customers' vehicles, said Jim Holland, O'Sullivan president.
The deal gives O'Sullivan of Winchester, Va., a foothold in the European market and, likewise, offers Brussels, Belgium-based Solvay inroads to carmakers' U.S. assembly operations, he said.
The U.S. firm tried to gain better access to Europe's automakers in 1993, when it forged an alliance with J.H. Benecke AG of Hannover, Germany, to supply vinyl sheet globally. But Benecke soon was acquired by Continental AG of Hannover, thwarting the arrangement.
O'Sullivan operates six calendering lines and employs roughly 800 at four U.S. plants to make mainly PVC and PVC/ABS rollstock for the office supply, medical and automotive markets - with automotive making up nearly half of the firm's overall plastics sales. Of O'Sullivan's $210 million in corporate sales, about $170 million were for plastic sheet and film, Holland said.
The company's Melnor Indus-tries lawn and garden subsidiary makes up the rest of those sales, with its line of water sprinklers, timers, hose caddies and snow shovels, which require a large number of injection molded plastic parts. Melnor is the last remnant of O'Sullivan's molding business, though the firm now farms out that work and has warehoused its eight large-tonnage presses, Holland said.
In Europe, Solvay subsidiaries Alkor GmbH in Munich, Germany; Griffine Industries SA near Paris; and Manhusa in Manhusa, Spain, make extruded, calendered, laminated and expanded vinyl sheet for the auto, packaging and other markets, according to Holland.
Together, the firms can offer automotive customers worldwide a larger pool of products, he said. One unique product O'Sullivan brings to the deal is a vacuum formable, single-ply ABS/PVC sheet, which it manufactures at ``tremendous cost savings'' compared with the several-layered ABS/PVC sheet being made in Europe, he said.
Solvay also produces PVC sheet in South America. O'Sullivan has an alliance with Tatsuta Chemical Co. Ltd. of Tokyo.