QUERETARO, MEXICO — Engel Holding GmbH says its sales in Mexico of injection molding machines, robots and spare parts soared in fiscal 2012, boosted by purchases from a hitherto ignored source: Japanese Tier 1 auto parts suppliers.
"Some Japanese Tier 1s are starting to buy Engel injection molding machines," Peter Auinger, managing director of subsidiary Engel de México SA de CV, told Plastics News in an interview May 10.
In Japan the market is "still almost completely closed to Western technology. But in countries like Mexico, they [Japanese companies] have become more open. The long-term situation is that they are widening their business. They see the advantage of having other [non-Japanese] technology."
The Mexican automotive industry, which is flourishing, accounted for 65 percent of Engel's sales of $55 million in Mexico in fiscal 2012, 63.6 percent more than the $33.6 million the company sold in the country in fiscal 2011, according to Auinger.
He explained that the total included Engel equipment purchased outside Mexico and imported by Engel customers. The Mexican subsidiary's sales in the 2012 fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, was 399 million pesos ($32.8 million), up 33.8 percent from $24.5 million in fiscal 2011.
Privately owned Engel, of Schwertberg, Austria, manufactures presses whose clamping forces range between 28 and 5,500 tons.
In fiscal 2012 a Tier 1 auto parts supplier in Mexico purchased an Engel press with a clamping force of 3,400 tons. Auinger declined to name the purchaser but he believed it was the first of its type sold by Engel in the country.
"We can do better," he said, referring to Engel's prospects in Mexico. "Our main competitor from Europe is KraussMaffei and the economy in Mexico is driven very strongly by the automotive industry… KraussMaffei is historically strong in Mexico and South America. Our intention is to overtake them. We are going head-to-head."
KraussMaffei Technologies GmbH is based in Munich, Germany. Together German and Austrian manufacturers have 37.8 percent of the Mexican market for new injection molding presses and robots, according to Auinger, who added that the market is worth an estimated $195 million a year.
Engel has 1,500 presses plus about 350 robots installed in Mexico. Packaging, primarily consumer packaging, accounts for 15 percent of its business in the country, up from about 5 percent five years ago, while teletronics and medical account for 10 percent each.
Engel is "very optimistic and positive" about Mexico, said Auinger. "For the next two or three years we see no growth [forecast] changes." Mexico, he said, occupies fifth or sixth place among Engel's most lucrative markets. "I think Mexico will gain one place every year over the next two or three years."
Asked which sectors the growth will come from, he replied he was "almost positive" German auto maker BMW will build an assembly plant in Mexico and thus join nine rivals that already have or are in the process of building manufacturing facilities in the country. Ten of the world's 15 largest Tier 1 suppliers have Engel technology installed in their Mexican facilities, he said.
Mexico is the eighth largest producer and fifth largest exporter of light vehicles (to 60 countries) and the third largest supplier of cars and trucks to the United States, after Canada and Germany.
It lines up behind China, Japan, Germany, the United States and South Korea as the sixth largest producer of auto parts, generating revenues for the suppliers forecast to reach $80 billion by 2015, up from $70 billion in 2011.
Two issues in Mexico worry him, however: organized crime, including kidnappings and the massacre of innocents, and a shortage of skilled, specialized labor.
"The safety issue has to be brought under control," he said. "The second issue is that there's not enough skilled staff. Very soon there must be more space taken to train people, specialized people." But he added: "Mexico will solve the problem."