Walbro Automotive Corp. has opened its $13.2 million fuel tank blow molding plant at Deeside, Wales.
The 80,000-square-foot plant incorporates a three-dimensional Krupp Kautex KB60S molding machine, claimed to be the world's first of its kind. It is due to manufacture fuel filler pipes for Toyota.
Meanwhile, Walbro of Auburn Hills, Mich., has just completed the construction of a European research and development center at Rastatt, Germany. The $15 million center will open officially in July, according to a Walbro Automotive Europe spokeswoman.
The Deeside plant originally was supposed to have seven blow molding machines, including a $3 million Krupp Kautex KBS5241D coextrusion model to make multilayer tanks for Jaguar and Rover.
But Walbro now is reviewing where its second coextrusion machine should be placed in Europe among its six regional plastic fuel tank plants.
The first machine was installed at its new plant, dedicated in January 1997, at Lokeren, Belgium, where it has made tanks for Volvo. Other plants are at Cergy, France; Ettlingen, Germany; Kongsvinger, Norway; and Pamplona, Spain.
At Deeside, Walbro also will supply air ducts, agricultural fuel tanks, expansion tanks and overflow bottles. Walbro's automotive customers, besides Toyota, include Ford, Rover and Jaguar, largely for the United Kingdom market.
``With more than 20 new products going into production in 1998, Walbro Automotive Ltd. needed to expand and modernize to meet the current and future demands of our clients,'' said Richard H. Whitehead III, Walbro Corp.'s president for Europe and South America.
He said the investment in Britain ``will mean tripling production at Deeside over the next few years.'' Last year Walbro estimated that local production should reach 376,000 tanks by 2000.
Walbro's 9,500-square-foot European Systems Engineering Centre at Rastatt brings European research from its German Ettlingen plant.