Hella Behr Plastic Omnium GmbH, a joint venture that builds and designs front-end modules for the auto industry, has invested $5 million in a new assembly plant in Toluca to supply components for the Dodge Journey crossover vehicle.
Chrysler LLC, of Auburn Hills, Mich., will start producing the vehicle for global markets at its adjacent assembly plant in Toluca early in 2008.
HBPO describes the modules as ``a breakthrough automotive innovation that includes structural front-body carriers, cross members, engine cooling systems, electronics and accurately positioned headlamps.''
``HBPO's third production facility in Mexico is a significant step forward in our operations,'' Holger Rapp, president of HBPO North America, said in a news release.
Rapp was present Dec. 13 when Mexican President Felipe CalderÃ³n officially opened the industrial park where the HBPO facility is located.
The HBPO complex in Toluca covers 166,000 square feet and employs 62. Rapp said HBPO expects to produce 150,000 front-end modules per year in Toluca.
According to its statement, North America is the fastest-growing region for HBPO, which has North American headquarters and a pilot production facility in Troy, Mich. The firm has facilities in St. Louis; Windsor, Canada; and Puebla and Hermosillo, Mexico, in addition to Toluca.
HBPO GmbH was founded at the beginning of 2004 as a joint venture among automotive suppliers Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., Behr Group GmbH and Plastic Omnium SA.
Each company has its own area of expertise: lighting and electronics (Hella); vehicle air conditioning and engine cooling (Behr); and exterior body components, impact absorption and pedestrian protection systems (Plastic Omnium Auto Exterior).
HBPO said it is the only company in the world to specialize in the design, development, assembly and logistics of complete front-end modules.
``These are complete assembly units, the main components of which are lighting engineering, engine cooling, air conditioning, assembly and cross members, crash boxes, electronics, locks, air-routing parts and bumpers,'' the release said.
With corporate headquarters in Lippstadt, Germany, HBPO's global 2007 sales have increased to about $1 billion dollars. HBPO employs more than 1,300 worldwide. It said it will assemble an estimated 2.7 million front-end modules this year at 16 sites in Europe, North America and Asia.
In a speech at the park's opening, CalderÃ³n said he expects Mexico to be producing 3 million vehicles a year within five years. It currently produces about 2 million per year.
``We are winning the battle [for new investment] against India and China,'' he said. ``The responsibility of my government is to create a favorable climate for investment.''
CalderÃ³n said that in the remaining five years of his government (presidents are limited to one term in Mexico), his administration will concentrate on attracting work from the automotive, aeronautical, information technology and electronics industries.