European automotive lighting supplier Hella KG Huck & Co. is expanding its North American unit with a new, $20 million plant in South Carolina.
The injection molding facility at York, S.C., is Hella North America's first independent lighting production plant in the United States. Hella now supplies customers in the United States, Mexico and Canada from two sites in Mexico — at Guadalajara and Mexico City.
"This will help with our distribution in the United States," said Nicole Rouse, marketing coordinator for Hella North America. "This is furthering our expansion into the North American market."
Parent company Hella KG of Lippstadt, Germany, is a $2 billion lighting and electrical system operation, but it registers less than 20 percent of its sales in North America. Much of those sales go to North American assembly plants of their European customers.
>From York, Hella can serve a range of customers producing polycarbonate lighting systems, Rouse said. Customers include BMW AG, which has a vehicle assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C.
Hella North America does have two operations in the United States now, at its U.S. base in Plymouth, Mich., and in Flora, Ill. Those plants produce electrical relays, sensors and remote keyless entry systems. The company has owned the York site for more than two years, once planning to launch production there through North American Lighting Inc. Hella owned half of North American Lighting, along with Japanese suppliers Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Ichikoh Industries Ltd.
Hella sold its share of North American Lighting in 1998, and the facility never opened.
Now, 15 employees already are on site making fog lamps at the 120,000-square-foot plant, Rouse said. Six presses will be on site by the end of this year with a total of at least 20 in place once full production begins.
Full operations will ramp up through 2002. The company expects to employ 100 and produce 1.5 million headlights annually, with sales of more than $100 million.
The company already has secured contracts to guarantee production at 75 percent of capacity once it is fully up and running, Rouse said.