It is more than the sum of its four walls, more than just new-product displays and meeting rooms.
The American Plastics Council has a much higher purpose in mind for its new automotive center in Troy, Mich.
The trade association that brought us the ``Plastics Make it Possible'' ad campaign now wants automakers to make it possible.
That's a significant leap. The resin suppliers' trade group has launched an aggressive campaign to convince Detroit that plastics can keep the auto industry's motor running.
From its fuzzier, touchy-feely television ads of yore — the ones with housewives and kids making goo-goo eyes at plastic's virtues — has come a hardscrabble, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work grittier approach.
New APC automotive director Bruce Cundiff said one of his goals is to build better relations between resin producers and auto companies. He also would like the plastics industry to become more involved upfront in the design of a new vehicle model, instead of coming in on the back end for tweaking — which is too late. All the politicking for plastics needs to happen while designers and stylists are still casting lines for ideas, he said.
So what we have is the new, aggressive APC, at least as far as Detroit is concerned. The 6,200-square-foot automotive center is the lure for automakers, a font of plastics knowledge to get them through the door and build awareness.
Nothing glitzy, the leased space in an office strip includes rooms for professional seminars and a library that will feature on-line information on resins and an ever-changing compendium of books and publications.
Each of APC's 13 automotive resin members also have lighted displays at the center to show off product innovations using their materials.
William Windscheif, sales director for Montell Polyolefins — one of those member companies — and chairman of APC's automotive group said that plugging plastics' offerings puts the association on the offensive, instead of focusing on defensive, after-the-fact issues like recycling.
The in-your-face portion of the attack started earlier this year. APC began running a series of radio ads in Detroit touting specific plastics success stories about auto parts once held captive by steel. The ads were technical and geared more to engineers than to the general public.
Since then, Cundiff and his team have met with Saturn Corp. officials and with Big Three executives working on the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, a group committed to developing lightweight, low-emission cars and trucks.
The center's grand opening in October attracted more than 200 industry executives, a far greater number than Cundiff said he expected.
And the group has made recent overtures to the Society of Plastics Engineers' automotive division and the Automotive Composites Alliance — sort of a Three Musketeers of Detroit plastics associations — to work jointly for the betterment of all.
The center is APC's first building solely dedicated to one industry. But with automotive plastics expected to rise in North America from about 3.3 billion pounds today (APC's numbers) to about 4.2 billion pounds in 10 years, a lot is riding on what goes on behind those walls.
Pryweller is Plastics News' Detroit-based staff reporter.