DUSSELDORF, GERMANY — One of Europe's largest automotive mold makers, Sermo Industries, plans to build a plant in Brazil, its first venture outside of Europe.
The plant, which will employ 40, will start by doing mold maintenance and repair for Sermo's European customers. But the company hopes to be making molds as large as 40 tons soon, said Chairman Claude Nerriere.
The facility will be in Taubate, Brazil, about 50 miles south of SÃo Paulo. The company bought a building in late October and plans to install equipment and open the facility in March, he said.
``Most of the European car industry goes to Brazil,'' said Ralf Willershausen, an engineer with the company's German branch, Sermo Deutschland GmbH. ``We have to be there.''
Company officials said they have not determined the cost of the plant, and they declined to talk about specific equipment. But they added that the plant will be on a par with the company's plants in France. Sermo is based in St. Hilaire-de-Loulay, France.
The Brazilian plant is the last peg in Sermo's plan to grow from current sales of 320 million francs ($57.7 million) to 500 million francs ($90.2 million) in four years, Nerriere said. He was interviewed at the K'98 show in Dusseldorf.
The company plans to seek business in Argentina from its Brazilian plant, but will not use it as a launching pad into Mexico because that market is a bit difficult, Nerriere said.
Sermo will focus on where the European automakers go because it is more difficult to compete in North American and Asian markets, he said.
Sermo has about 530 employees in its toolmaking and design operations in France and Poland. It purchased the Polish subsidiary, Sermo Polska, in early 1997. That firm has 120 employees.
Sermo makes molds of up to 70 tons for bumpers and dashboards, and its customers include Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen AG, Sommer Allibert SA, Delphi Automotive Systems and Magna International Inc.
Its sales have grown about 70 percent since 1994, the firm said.
Last year, the company did about 37 percent of its business in body components and exterior fittings, 38 percent in interior parts and 25 percent in heaters and air conditioners.