Tightening standards for automotive fuel tanks are providing a strong boost for blow molding equipment supplier Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH.
New orders from major carmakers and the retrofitting of existing Kautex machines are contributing to the Bonn, Germany- based company's success, joint Managing Director Andreas Lichtenauer said at K 2007, held Oct. 24-31 in Dusseldorf.
Kautex, now owned by Steadfast Capital GmbH, which acquired it from Adcuram AG earlier this year, is enjoying its best year for fuel tank machines since the mid-1990s. The company has sold 10 units this year, Lichtenauer said, including sales to Russia, where automotive supplier DSK Detalstroykonstruktsia has switched to plastics tanks.
The firm also has sold machines to suppliers in Iran and Japan, as well as in Italy with Fiat SpA and in Germany, where Volkswagen is moving into coextrusion.
Of the last 50 Kautex blow molding units sold for making fuel tanks, only a handful have been monolayer, as the industry moves to meet strict emissions requirements and carmakers seek longer warranty terms by moving to six-layer designs. Fluorinated- and nylon-barrier-based systems are in decline, offering good opportunities for new and retrofitted multilayer machines.
Kautex's 200th fuel tank machine was sold earlier this year to Yangzhou Automotive Plastic Parts Co. Ltd., China's largest tank manufacturer with a 50 percent market share. The Yangzhou-based firm now has around a dozen machines from Kautex.
Kautex has been making blow molding machines in China since the mid-1990s, originally through a joint venture that it subsequently took over.
Overall, Lichtenauer said, order levels for Kautex machines are running at twice the level of three years ago, with a 2007 projected level of around 50 machines.
Emphasizing the virtues of hydraulic designs, Kautex is targeting much faster mold change times to speed up manufacturing and meet auto industry demands.
``We are aiming to cut delivery times by 40 percent by the end of 2008 and [we] have achieved half of this already,'' he said.
Managers hold a 23 percent ownership stake in Kautex, and the company employs a total of 350, Lichtenauer said. The firm's goal for 2007 is to reach sales of 70 million euros ($101.6 million).