DETROIT — French extruder and injection molder Sofanou Inc. will open its first Asian processing site next month and is seeking a home for its first Brazilian operation, to open in 2001. The business is getting more contracts from automakers anxious to use their plastic tubing in vehicles as the amount of electronics on wheels increases.
"There will be more and more cables for the auto industry," said Emmanuel Klinklin, chief executive officer for Sofanou's North American division. He was interviewed March 9 during the Society of Automotive Engineers 2000 World Congress in Detroit.
With other auto suppliers at SAE touting everything from a hands-free mobile Internet connection, electric sensors that detect children's hands in danger of getting caught in a closing window and cruise controls with on-board radar units that sense changes in traffic patterns and slow speeds to avoid collisions, Klinklin said it is obvious cars are about to get more wired.
"This market is going to grow, very fast," he said.
Sofanou's global headquarters is in Anteuil, France, and the firm has North American operations in Troy, Mich.
The firm makes a variety of flexible extruded housings for electronic connections, using PVC, polypropylene, nylon and other plastics. It also injection molds connecting clips for the pieces.
During the event, the firm highlighted its ability to turn out long sections of tubing with both flexible and rigid portions, capable of wrapping around components yet still maintaining their place along underbodies when needed.
The company had nearly $80 million in sales in 1999.
Automakers, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers building modules all are increasing ties with Sofanou, Klinklin said. The organization must make certain it has factories where it can supply customers quickly and inexpensively.
The 40,000-square-foot plant in Cebu, Philippines, will sell to Asian automakers and Tier 1 suppliers, he said. Extrusion operations will go on line in April, with injection presses set to arrive sometime later this year.
The company has room for further expansion on the site, said David J. Wise, sales manager for North America. It has not determined how many presses or the sizes it will use in Cebu.
Sofanou has sales offices in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, but the Philippines plant is its first production push in Asia.
The Brazilian operation will meet customer demands to produce there, Klinkin said. Sofanou now supplies Brazilian automakers from factories in Argentina.
"The customers we have are growing and we are growing with them," he said.