The Sheet Molding Composites Automotive Alliance will follow a trail of recent defections and jump ship from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. to a rival composites group.
The alliance, based in Troy, Mich., is part of SPI's Composites Institute. On June 1, when SPI's new fiscal year begins, the group will join the Arlington, Va.-based Composites Fabricators Association, a competing, 750-member group.
With the move, the decade-old alliance also will widen its scope to serve suppliers of thermoset composite parts and materials to the auto industry, said Eldon Trueman, an alliance board member and former chairman. The group now focuses on suppliers using sheet molding compound.
The SMC Automotive Alliance will change its name to the Automotive Composites Alliance, or ACA, and include firms supplying both the automotive and heavy-truck industries, Trueman said.
The alliance, which has 25 member companies, had decided this year to attract auto suppliers using bulk molding compound and other composites, Trueman said. Many of those companies are not now represented by a strong trade group, he added.
In recent years, the alliance has lost several companies, including Cincinnati-based Eagle-Picher Industries Inc., as SMC suppliers have consolidated.
The alliance includes some of the industry's largest thermoset compression and injection molders, including Cambridge Industries Inc. of Madison Heights, Mich., and Troy, Mich.-based Budd Co. Plastics Division, as well as material supplier Owens Corning of Toledo, Ohio.
The shift to CFA was influenced partly by a wave of recent defections from Washington-based SPI, Trueman said. In March, CI members voted to leave SPI, and outgoing CI Chairman Robert DeRoma urged members to join the rival association in what has become a bitter battle among the Washington-area trade groups.
Several SMC alliance members were among the CI board members who resigned from that group after the vote, Trueman said.
Missy Henriksen, CFA executive director, said her association has gained more than a dozen new members — apart from the alliance move — within the past week and has seen a recent boost in membership numbers. She did not specify how many new members formerly belonged to CI.
Many SMC alliance members already belonged to CFA, Trueman said. Instead of paying dues to both SPI and CFA, alliance members will concentrate on one group, he said.
``The key to this is focus,'' said Trueman, international marketing director for composite parts-maker Molded Fiberglass Cos. of Ashtabula, Ohio. ``We want our voice to be heard quite loud, not over a crowd. Historically, we've had a good relationship with SPI, but they are not as relevant to the needs of thermosetters as they once were. We don't want our message to become so defused that it doesn't get out.''
CFA's lower-dues structure and separate funding for its divisions also appealed to the alliance, Trueman said.
CFA has a two-tiered system that allows member companies to pay dues to CFA for lobbying, education and training and a separate fee to divisions such as the alliance, Henriksen said. A typical parts supplier would pay between $395 and $2,000 annually for CFA dues, depending on size. Material and equipment suppliers pay $1,500-$7,500 annually to CFA.
SPI also has revised its dues structure for the next fiscal year. The new framework cuts processor dues by an average of two-thirds and lowers maximum processor dues to $10,000 a year.
Five SMC alliance members also belong to SPI and use the group's many services, said SPI spokeswoman Jennifer Dills. The association continues to operate CI as a separate composites group in the wake of the departures, she said.
The association did not comment on how the loss of the alliance will affect future plans.