SAO JOSE DOS PINHAIS, BRAZIL — Hella KG Hueck & Co. of Lippstadt, Germany, is adopting a more aggressive attitude in South America, transforming its status as a mere technology licenser into that of a real local player.
In Brazil, the company is launching a 50-50 joint venture with lighting manufacturer Industrias Arteb SA of Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil.
The venture will assemble front ends for Volkswagen AG/Audi AG's new facility in Sao Jose dos Pinhais. The new company is called Hella-Arteb SA, and is based in VW/Audi's supplier park.
Last year Hella and Arteb established another joint venture in C¢rdoba, Argentina. Arteb Argentina SA delivers lighting parts manufactured by Arteb in Brazil. The venture, which is 70 percent owned by Arteb, makes parts for General Motors Corp.'s Silverado and Corsa models, as well as Fiat Palio, Renault Clio and Renault Megane.
``We are considering the option to start assembling those components there next year and, later on, to add the injection molding and metalizing lines to that unit,'' said Caetano Piragine Zafra, engineering and manufacturing manager at Hella-Arteb's plant in Sao Jose dos Pinhais.
Hella owns an 8 percent stake in Arteb, a leading lighting firm in Brazil that has been licensing Hella's technology for roughly 40 years. Arteb is the only Brazilian plastics company to participate in the team of Tier 1 suppliers selected by the new VW/Audi plant.
Hella already furnishes front ends for several other Volkswagen models, including the Beetle and Jetta A4 models in Puebla, Mexico, as well as the Passat and Golf A4 in Mosel, Germany. Soon, it will start providing front ends for the Skoda Felicia model in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic.
In Brazil, Hella-Arteb's unit operates an aerial assembly line with eight stations for such parts as headlamps, air ducts, radiators, horns and ventilators. Local production of the majority of these items is still in the process of final approval with the auto manufacturer.
The $4 million plant was designed to operate under just-in-time and just-in-sequence systems and possesses a minimal stocking area for finished goods.
According to Zafra, both the Audi A3 and Golf A4 being produced in Sao Jose dos Pinhais use glass headlamp lenses. Brazilian Arteb is responsible for feeding the Golf line, while the Audi A3's headlamps are imported from Hella's subsidiary in Spain.
Beginning in the 2000 model year, the Audi A3 will feature polycarbonate lenses.
``There's also the possibility of utilizing such material on the Golf model, if VW/Audi decides to export this car to the United States, where polycarbonate lenses are a trend,'' said Hella-Arteb plant manager Hubertus Koehne.
Hella-Arteb will employ 80 when running at full capacity. Presently, it has 15 workers but plans to have 45 by the end of the year.