TORTUGUITAS, ARGENTINA — Auto parts molder Emplast Empreendimientos Plasticos SA of Tortuguitas is negotiating a joint venture with a Tier 1 supplier to gain global status.
The company is in talks with an unidentified U.S. firm and a European firm, but a deal should be concluded with one of them by June or July, Rodolfo Achille, Emplast business development manager, said in an April 9 interview at the company's headquarters.
Meanwhile, Emplast also is dealing with European companies interested in having a partner in Argentina, Achille said.
``The local auto parts molder is in a complex situation. If it wishes to continue participating as a Tier 1 supplier, it will have to form an association with a big player. But if it prefers to preserve its individuality, then it will have to accept being a Tier 2 firm,'' he said.
Technology manager Guillermo Vanetta said, ``The globalization process foresees the existence of 15-20 Tier 1 companies. In this context, there is not much space for local processors in the role they were used to playing. Some firms will be acquired; others will disappear. That's why the joint venture is a clear-cut strategy for us.''
Emplast is an association between two Argentine conglomerates, the Caputo and Bressi groups, with 75 percent and 25 percent shares, respectively.
It specializes in delivering injection molded systems for automobile interiors and exteriors, as well as painted plastic components manufactured in-house or by third parties.
Achille said Emplast holds 95 percent of the bumper market in Argentina. Locally, its clients include Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Fiat, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Renault. Emplast also exports a few parts for Renault and Peugeot models in France and serves the replacement parts market.
``We are about to start selling bumpers for the VW Polo in South Africa,'' Achille said.
Emplast's executives said the company is involved in all new-car projects that automakers are developing in Argentina, and is flirting with a carmaker in Brazil to supply bumpers for a new vehicle yet to be launched.
Emplast's 172,000-square-foot plant employs 250. The US$25 million facility operates eight presses with clamping forces of 2,200 tons or more, capable of making roughly 6,000 bumpers a day. The presses also can mold door panels. The large presses are supplied by Husky, Sandretto, Italtech and Krauss-Maffei.
The unit has another four presses of 1,000 tons or less that make smaller pieces like interior parts and grilles. It also can paint 4,000 bumpers a day.
``Currently, the unit operates at 60 percent of painting capacity and at 85 percent of injection molding capacity,'' Vanetta said.
An Emplast affiliate in Cordoba, another important automotive region in Argentina, is dedicated only to painting plastic auto parts. Corplast SA employs 120 and has capacity for painting 800 bumpers per day.
Recently, the Emplast-Corplast partners have started to invest in a new facility in Cordoba, where Corplast will transfer its current operations. The US$10 million, 107,000-square-foot plant will be launched in early November and will include injection molding.
``The plan is to install four presses at the new unit and basically repeat the same line we produce in Tortuguitas: bumpers, door panels and smaller components,'' Vanetta said.
The firm already has ordered three Krauss-Maffei presses with clamping forces of 800-2,300 tons.
Vanetta said the new plant is being prepared to mold about 2,500 bumpers per day and initially will supply Renault and Fiat.
Together Emplast and Corplast had 1997 sales of US$36 million, and expect US$50 million in 1998.