TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. — Faurecia, a giant in interior parts, is now setting its sights on exteriors.
The French supplier believes there is opportunity in bumper fascias, hoods and front-end modules in North America, says Mike Heneka, president of Faurecia North America.
"A couple of automakers are asking us to get in," Heneka said today on the sidelines of the 2013 CAR Management Briefing Seminars here. "We spent the past two weeks in meetings with OEMs on it."
But Heneka is frank on Faurecia's outlook: Before expanding into exteriors, he wants firm, long-term commitments from customers.
"We're No. 1 in exteriors in Europe — we're last in North American exteriors," Heneka says. "It's a very captive market here now, and the automakers would love for us to come in, be it Mexico or the United States."
Producing bumper fascias inside an auto plant, as companies such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda do, is challenging because they require ample space and clean, dust-free environments.
And it's an expensive business to get into, Heneka says, requiring an investment of about $30 million for one plant. It would take more than a single model cycle to pay off an investment.
Bumper fascias are also delicate and would need to be produced near the vehicle assembly line. And that would mean investing in individual plants for single customers in some cases.
"One-customer facilities are always risky," the executive says. "But the auto companies recognize all this, and we're discussing how we could do it."
At the same time, Faurecia has invested in manufacturing of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, and Heneka believes its U.S. customers will now ask for more carbon-fiber body panels as part of their lightweighting challenge.
The supplier additionally envisions expanding into more front-end module production. It is active in that segment in Europe, but barely so in North American yet, Heneka says.
The company last year added $1.3 billion in North American sales, primarily from interiors. Heneka forecasts North American sales of $7 billion in 2016.