Visteon Corp. is boosting its presence in China, with a new manufacturing plant up and running now and a technical center opening in 2005.
``Asia continues to play a major role in our growth plans,'' President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Johnston said in an April 22 conference call with analysts.
Visteon opened a 100,000-square-foot plant making interior and exterior trim for ``several automakers'' through its joint venture with automaker Dongfeng Motor Corp. in Wuhan, China, late last year.
By 2005, the firm will open a technical center in Shanghai. That facility will house 200 Visteon engineers plus support staff, as well as 400 engineers from YanFeng Visteon, the U.S. company's joint venture with carmaker Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.
The Asian expansions allow Visteon to widen its customer base, since former parent Ford Motor Co. accounts for ``very little'' of its sales there, Johnston said.
Through YanFeng Visteon, the company supplies General Motors Corp.'s growing Chinese base.
Shanghai General Motors Corp. Ltd. made nearly 207,000 cars in 2003, up 85 percent from 2002. The company's lineup includes the Buick Regal, which is popular with Chinese car buyers and carries a YanFeng Visteon instrument panel.
That production uses a foam injection tool - developed by Visteon's Saline, Mich., injection molding operation - that combines a hard plastic substrate, PVC skin and polyurethane foam to make soft instrument panels. The unit's ability to boost production quickly to meet GM's demands won it a Visteon in-house employee award.
Dongfeng, meanwhile, has joint assembly operations with a variety of automakers, among them Japan's Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and France's PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA.
Visteon, a Dearborn, Mich.-based auto supplier, saw its first-quarter sales in Asia jump by 20 percent in 2004 compared with the previous period in 2003, Johnston said. This year's sales boost comes on top of a 25 percent hike for all of 2003 compared with 2002.
Much of the expansion in the region focuses on plastics-intensive cockpit production, electronics and climate control.
Visteon posted $5 billion in sales for the first quarter of 2004, with a profit of $30 million, up from a loss of $15 million for the same period of 2003.