DETROIT - Automotive molder Blue Water Plastics Inc., in a move to extend its reach into Europe and South America, has joined a three-way strategic alliance with a French molder/mold maker and a Spanish manufacturer of wheel covers. Blue Water and its partners have formed International Automotive Components SA, a sales and marketing firm based in Paris. The group also has a North American office in Marysville, Mich., where Blue Water is based.
During the next two years, IAC also plans to expand manufacturing operations in Mexico and enter the Brazilian market.
Blue Water's partners are Somomeca Industries, a mold builder and injection molder based in Chalon Sur Saone, France, and Zanini Auto Grup, a molder of wheelcovers and interior trim based in Barcelona, Spain.
For Blue Water, the alliance opens the way to new customers in Europe and allows it to offer a wider selection of products to existing customers in North America, said H. Thomas Rowland, IAC's director of marketing. In turn, Somomeca and Zanini will market their products to Blue Water's customer base, which consists both of automakers and large full-service parts suppliers.
``It gives each company a stronger globalization opportunity under IAC,'' Rowland said. ``It pushes the three well beyond their borders.''
Blue Water, with $130 million in sales last year, makes a variety of under-the-hood, interior trim and automotive heating/ventilating/ air conditioning products at seven plants in the United States and one in Mexico.
The IAC partners plan to expand Blue Water's manufacturing affiliate in Tultitl n, Mexico- Campco de Mexico SA de CV - by late 1997 to begin wheel cover production by Zanini for Nissan Motor Corp. The Mexico operation would be the first in North America for Zanini, which has three plants in Spain and sales last year of $61 million.
IAC also plans an expansion into Brazil in 1998 to supply Renault, a current customer of Zanini and Somomeca. Somo-meca, with seven plants in France and one in Portugal, describes itself as the largest maker of injection molds in France and fifth-largest in Europe, with 1995 sales of $86 million. The company, which was founded as a mold maker, has expanded into rapid prototyping and injection molding.
Rowland said IAC still is looking at various options for expansion into Brazil, including an alliance with a Brazilian partner or the construction of a new plant. ``We're moving as fast as we can,'' he said.
Plans are to supply wheel covers and interior trim for Renault's Megane model and then expand the business by adding other South American customers, Rowland said.
IAC also plans to join the resources of its three research and development facilities in North America and Europe to share product and manufacturing technologies.