SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL — General Motors do Brasil Ltda. has announced the first 12 exclusive system suppliers for the company's new plant in Gravataí, in southern Brazil.
The list includes plastic component suppliers Lear Corp. do Brasil Ltda., which is responsible for furnishing seat systems, headliners and door panels: Soplast Pl sticos Soprados SA, making plastic fuel tanks; VDO do Brasil Ltda., for instrument panels; and Ind£strias Arteb SA, which will produce lighting.
The government for the state of Rio Grande do Sul announced the companies July 22 at state headquarters in Porto Alegre.
These suppliers will install their facilities in the same location General Motors will build its automotive complex, a 43 million-square-foot property in Gravataí. The area has been granted on a loan-for-use basis by the government of Rio Grande do Sul, where Gravataí is located.
The industrial complex is expected to absorb a $600 million investment, of which at least $169 million will come from suppliers, according to a supplier source.
The GM plant will be launched in 1999 and employ roughly 2,000. The unit's environmental license has just been issued and work to prepare the grounds is due to begin in August.
GM said it will produce 120,000 units per year of a new compact car model at the facility. The car is known in the market as the ``Blue Macaw'' project and defined as a variation of the Corsa platform.
By placing all its key suppliers in the same industrial complex as the car assembly lines, the facility will benefit in terms of productivity and quality, according to GM.
Suppliers say they cannot use their facilities in the Gravataí automotive complex to serve GM's competition.
For Soplast Pl sticos Soprados SA, installing a fuel tank system unit next to the automaker's assembly lines is absolutely necessary to guarantee the competitiveness of its product, said commercial director André Luiz GuimarÃes.
``Freight costs to transport long distances large and hollow parts such as fuel tanks would make our participation in the project unfeasible,'' he said.
Currently, Soplast manufactures 400,000 fuel tank systems per year at its SÃo Bernardo do Campo facility, where the firm is based, about 700 miles from the new automotive complex.
Initially, Soplast's new $8 million plant will provide 120,000 fuel systems per year and will be able to have its capacity expanded as demand increases. The facility will use a monolayer Krupp Kautex blow molding machine that can be converted to multilayer production, as well as an unspecified number of injection molding presses for producing small components.
Soplast will manage about 15 subsuppliers of raw materials, fuel lines, heat shields, stamping, rubber and injection molded components.
The instrument panel supplier VDO do Brasil Ltda., a SÃo Paulo-based unit of Mannesmann Automotive Group, still is designing its new facility for Gravataí.
``We're deciding between investing in a unit to only supply the car to be manufactured or making one that can also serve other GM plants,'' said Kurt Hupperich, financing director.
The company also is choosing which plastic components will be manufactured in the Gravataí unit and which it will continue to produce at its headquarters. Currently, VDO assembles 1.2 million instrument panels for Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford, Fiat and other automakers in Brazil, combining outsourced components and parts produced internally, especially small injection molded components such as knobs and buttons.
In Gravataí, VDO plans to deal with roughly 30 subsuppliers. One will be Eldorado Ind£strias Pl sticas Ltda, based in Barueri, Brazil, which will produce polypropylene panels in Gravataí.
Gilberto Figueroa, managing director for South America operations at Lear Corp. do Brasil Ltda., based in Diadema, said Lear also is analyzing the best form to structure activities to supply seat systems, headliners and door panels for the Blue Macaw project.
``Whether we develop local subsuppliers to furnish parts or if we are going to make them ourselves will depend on a case-by-case competitive assessment,'' he said. ``There are lots of plastic components in our products, such as miscellaneous injected parts that can travel well.''
GM expects to announce more suppliers soon, including manufacturers of plastic bumpers and grilles. Local sources speculate that the number of key suppliers could reach 16 firms.
The Gravataí facility is part of GM's $1.25 billion expansion project in South America, to fulfill the increasing car demand in Brazil and the Mercosul trade region. This plan includes the construction of two other industrial units to be launched in 1998 and 1999.
The company already has two plants in Brazil.