Founded only a year ago, Valeo Sylvania Lighting Systems has started a major push to expand molding operations in Mexico and the United States.
The company was formed in January 1998 as a 50-50 joint venture between lighting producer Osram GmbH, based in Munich, Germany, and Valeo SA, a French-based auto parts supplier.
The venture was expected to be combustive, joining two of Europe's largest independent automotive lighting companies into one striding further into North America. Osram already had a U.S. subsidiary, Osram Sylvania Inc., in Danvers, Mass., which continues to operate.
The joint venture expects to reach sales of $250 million this year. But by 2003, that figure should rise to $450 million, said Marvin Maupin, executive director for marketing and sales at Valeo Sylvania headquarters in Seymour, Ind.
The company is both consolidating and expanding operations to reach those targets. In Mexico, it is spending $18 million to build a 123,000-square-foot plant in Queretaro, due to start full production by June. The plant will employ 160.
The firm will shift lighting work to the new plant from Toluca, Mexico, where it occupied only a small area within a large, existing Valeo facility devoted mostly to making climate-control products.
The Queretaro site will start with two presses with a clamping force of 1,000 tons and a three-color press with a 1,200-ton clamping force. In 2002, the company plans to add an additional 100,000 square feet, Maupin said.
Lighting made in North America comes primarily from plastic. Headlamp lenses are molded from polycarbonate and taillamp lenses from acrylics. Most headlamp reflectors are produced using bulk molding compound.
The plant will be kept busy, with its first production contract planned for next summer and three more launches scheduled for the next 18 months, Maupin said. In Mexico, Valeo Sylvania has worked with both General Motors Corp. and Volkswagen AG on its new Beetle.
The company also has consolidated U.S. operations in Seymour. Valeo Sylvania last year closed a small lighting operation in Stratford, Ontario, and transferred work there to the 20-year-old, former Osram Sylvania site.
The firm has added three presses with clamping forces between 1,000 and 1,800 tons to the 520,000-square-foot plant. It invested close to $5 million in the new equipment, raising the total in Seymour to 59 presses.
The partnership has helped both firms increase their North American presence, Maupin said.
``Our customers required that we have design and manufacturing capabilities all over the world,'' he said. ``We needed to make the decision to break ground in other countries or form a joint venture.''