Bicycle reflector maker Sate-Lite Manufacturing Co. is teaming up with automotive lighting giant Hella KG Hueck & Co. to create a bicycle-lighting joint venture in China that will give both companies more products and access to more customers.
Hella will shift its bicycle-lighting operations to Shunde, China, for Hella Sate-Lite Bike Lighting Co. Ltd., while Sate-Lite, the largest supplier of bicycle reflectors in North America, will offer its manufacturing expertise and extensive business contacts among Asian bike manufacturers.
``The focus will be on products for the export market,'' said Richard Van Deventer, president of Niles, Ill.-based Sate-Lite. ``The joint venture will make both of our products, and we will sell them to our own customers.''
Construction is under way on a 75,000-square-foot building for Hella Sate-Lite, connected to the 200-employee, nine-press injection molding and assembly plant Sate-Lite already operates in Shunde. The businesses have not determined the full scope of the investment for Shunde, but it will include new presses and assembly equipment, he said.
About 90 percent of the bicycles sold in North America are produced in Asia. Sate-Lite opened in Shunde in 1998 to supply reflectors. It has little exposure in Europe, however, and no expertise in lighting.
Hella, meanwhile, has an established reputation in automotive lighting. The Lippstadt, Germany-based firm has a small division in Salo, Finland, making headlamps and taillamps for bicycles almost exclusively for the European market.
Hella will close the bike-lighting production unit in Europe and shift all manufacturing to the joint venture, adding its expertise in lighting to the new company. The plant will launch with about 20-25 employees and expand as it establishes itself, Van Deventer said.
Each company will market the jointly made reflector and lighting products to its own customers, with Hella overseeing sales in Europe and Africa and Sate-Lite in North America, South America and Asia. That should expand sales for both companies, he said.
``The joint venture will put us in a better position to serve the worldwide market for cycle lighting,'' said Werner Boekles, division manager of Hella Bike.