FRANKFURT, GERMANY — Strong sales of German-made blow molding machines helped German plastics and rubber machine builders reach a 3.3 percent gain in production in 1996, according to the German Machinery and Plant Manufacturers Association (VDMA).
Exports rose 4.3 percent to hit a new record of $7 billion. said VDMA, which stands for Verband Deutscher Maschinen-und Anlagenbau e.V. The United States was a particularly strong market in 1996, growing 20 percent.
German manufacturers shipped $1.1 billion worth of plastics and rubber equipment to the United States. Exports account for 73 percent of German-built machines.
Despite the strong showing by exports, the Frankfurt-based trade association said overall production, of $9.7 billion, remains below the peak year of 1990.
VDMA reports that blow molding machinery enjoyed above-average growth rates in 1996, for the first time in many years. The blow molding machine sector achieved its highest production value ever: $558 million worth of machines. German extrusion equipment hit $1.8 billion, an increase of 1.6 percent from 1995.
In the injection molding press sector, 1996 output fell to $1.9 billion, after what VDMA called a boom the previous year.
Shipments to other European countries grew by 2.5 percent.
In 1996, exports of blow molding machines shot up 55 percent, but declined slightly for injection molding machines and extruders.
Exports to Asia increased 10 percent, while shipments to China shot up 32.4 percent. VDMA said exports to South Korea increased 14 percent. Exports by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations declined for the first time, by 3.6 percent, because of weakening demand in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Shipments to India — which had leaped by 65 percent in 1995, lost some of that momentum by falling 28.5 percent in 1996.
VDMA's Rubber and Plastics Machinery Division publishes the statistics. The division also tracks employment levels. VDMA said jobs in the German rubber and plastics machinery sector probably fell slightly in 1996, to about 26,000, as layoffs continued. But VDMA said: ``There are signs that the decline in jobs of previous years will now come to a halt.''