Automotive supplier Key Plastics LLC has joined forces with a Japanese company to move further into Mexico.
Key, based in Novi, Mich., has formed a joint venture with a subsidiary of Nagoya, Japan-based Inoac Corp., one of Asia's largest producers of instrument panels, to make radio bezel assemblies for automakers.
The venture, signed Nov. 24, will operate from Inoac's 79,000-square-foot plant in Monterrey, Mexico, and employ close to 200, said Joe Buzzitta, Key's vice president of marketing.
The work includes injection molding a decorative instrument-panel trim piece surrounding a vehicle's radio that includes buttons, light pipes and graphics.
The plant has seven injection presses with clamping forces as large as 400 tons and can perform assembly, laser etching and painting. The company plans to expand that facility and purchase additional presses as business warrants, said Rick Blough, Key vice president of human resources.
``That's what attracted us to that facility; we have room to expand,'' he said.
Key has controlling interest in the venture, called Key-Inoac, and is managing partner of the plant, Blough said. Inoac Packaging Group Inc., the firm's interior-parts subsidiary in Bardstown, Ky., will act as minority partner.
The venture gives Key another foothold in Mexico, where auto companies rapidly have set up assembly plants to take advantage of a less-expensive labor market. Key already has three plants in Mexico supplying interior and exterior parts to automakers.
Key, a major producer of radio bezels, will bring the technology to the Monterrey venture, Key President Len Griffin said in a statement.
Inoac steadily has increased its North American presence by teaming with other suppliers. Among its recent efforts are a venture with Aeroquip-Vickers Corp. of Maumee, Ohio, to make blow molded rear spoilers at three plants, and one with Johnson Controls Inc. of Plymouth, Mich., to produce instrument panels and other interior parts.
The agreement with Key also has a provision for a similar venture in Asia, Buzzitta said. The details and timing of that arrangement are to be determined, he said.
The Monterrey plant will supply bezels for vehicles built by DaimlerChrysler Corp., BMW AG, General Motors Corp. and several Japanese automakers. Parts will be sent both to automakers' plants and to other Tier 1 suppliers for assembly.
Key ranked 19th in Plastics News' survey of 1997 injection molders, with $251.7 million in relevant North American sales.