DuPont Co. traces its history of doing business with China back to 1863. Today, the country generates $3.3 billion in annual sales for the $38 billion global conglomerate. And the market continues to grow, as indicated by DuPont's latest announcement at the recent Chinaplas show in Shanghai — the launch of a China automotive center.
DuPont's research and development center in Shanghai, currently under expansion, houses the new automotive center, which will provide automakers with integrated design and applications-development services. The auto center's three labs will focus on materials, molds and molding, part testing and design, said Li Jiang, general manager of DuPont China Holding Co. Ltd. Li has held that position since October.
By the end of the year, the R&D center will complete the second phase of its expansion, which includes adding just over 188,000 square feet of space and about 150 new hires.
Sustainability, cost effectiveness, and high performance are key areas for the plastics industry and for DuPont, Li said. For example, the company works with China's state-owned automaker, Chery Automobile Co. Ltd., to develop lighter components and apply recyclable materials.
Lawrence Chang, sales director for DuPont Performance Polymers' Asia-Pacific region, said the automotive market accounts for about half of his unit's business. Though the Chinese auto market may carry some uncertainty in the short term, for the long term it's in good shape, with more consumers demanding mobility, Chang said in an interview at Chinaplas, held April 18-21.
“Sustainable mobility is focused on reducing dependence on fossil fuels with material science and expert application development, especially for lightweighting, increased fuel economy, reduced energy loss and reduced emissions. This is made possible through value-chain collaboration at auto innovation centers around the world,” he said.
Chang added that DuPont's centers present products and trends to customers in interactive ways. Each regional innovation center has its own emphasis. For example, the Pune, India, center focuses on automotive; Hsinchu, Taiwan, on industrial or consumer applications such as handheld devices.
Because of rising costs in China, some manufacturing is moving to countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and India. But, according to Chang, DuPont customers are expanding into those regions while retaining their China operations.
“Chinese consumers are becoming more affluent and they demand high mobility, connectivity and productivity,” he said, noting the growing desire for cars and electronic appliances.
Improvements in manufacturing productivity include greater efficiency, faster cycle times and better durability of products, he said.
Going forward, DuPont Performance Polymers' Asia strategy will include a clear focus on high-end markets, collaboration on a global scale and continued investment in facilities and talent.
Chang noted that DuPont's workforce in China has doubled during the last five years and will continue to rise rapidly.