Nicholas Plastics Inc. has signed an agreement with Derby Cellular Products Inc. to add ethylene propylene diene monomer sealing to Nicholas' line of plastic and thermoplastic vulcanizate vehicle seals.
Derby will produce EPDM seals exclusively for Nicholas, which in turn will market them to automakers and Tier 1 automotive system suppliers.
The companies will co-engineer the rubber automotive seals.
The agreement was disclosed Feb. 13, but the firms already are supplying seals to Lear Corp. for the Savana Pro truck and other platforms.
Given its focus on thermoplastic elastomers and TPV seals, it didn't make sense for Nicholas to invest in EPDM equipment and processes, said Chief Executive Officer and President Terry Nicholas.
However, even though TPEs and TPVs are gaining wider acceptance among automotive original equipment manufacturers, there is a continuing need for EPDM seals in primary door seals and under-the-hood uses, he said.
``As our automotive customers continue to reduce the number of suppliers they are working with, it has become increasingly important to be able to offer more depth of product,'' Nicholas said.
The pact with Derby gives Nicholas the ability to bid for business in sealing areas that TPV and TPE haven't penetrated, such as primary seals, he said.
The manufacturer's current contracts are for sealing the door and window, the hood, trunk and lights - areas where there also are EPDM opportunities, he said.
Derby didn't respond to requests for comment. In a news release, the company said it looks forward to working in the automotive sector with Nicholas, and it hopes to find other industries it can enter with TPE, TPV and EPDM sealing.
Derby, a privately held company based in Derby, Conn., supplies primary, secondary, door glass and under-the-hood EPDM seals to the automotive, heavy-truck, agricultural and appliance markets.
The company currently supplies more than 90 percent of the dishwasher door seals for the U.S. market, the primary seals for the military Hummer, and some of the body seals for one undisclosed small-car platform.
Nicholas operates an extrusion plant in Allendale, Mich., and injection molding operations in Grand Rapids, Mich., and through a new joint venture in Monterrey, Mexico. Together, Nicholas' two plants employ about 250 and bring in annual sales exceeding $50 million, Nicholas said.
The agreement with Derby should increase sales by as much as 15 percent this year, based on the Lear contract and other supply agreements now in the works.
Nicholas' vehicle-sealing and interior-component customers include DaimlerChrysler AG, General Motors Corp. and many Tier 1 suppliers.