German automotive components manufacturer Behr-Hella Thermocontrol (BHTC) is set to launch a new 22 million euro ($28.4 million) vehicle air conditioning systems plant in Bulgaria this month.
The Lippstadt, Germany-based company has been constructing its new 70,000-square-meter facility in the Bozhurishte Economic Zone close to the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The operation, which is due to employ 350, is scheduled to start up production next spring.
Behr-Hella said it chose to site its sixth global manufacturing unit in Bulgaria because of the country's qualified workforce, good business environment and investment incentives. One such incentive is the option to recover employees' pension and healthcare costs over a period of two years.
Its operations include control panels, surfaces, software and electronics.
Apart from manufacturing, the new base will have a product development center and the company intends to work closely with Bulgaria's technical universities. Behr-Hella, formed between the German groups Behr and Hella in 1999, has other plants in Germany, India, the U.S., China and Japan.
Before laying the plant foundations in mid-2013, BHTC managers spent a year researching suitable locations and visited 15 possible sites in Bulgaria including Bozhuishte, Plovdiv, Pernik, Pazardzhik, Rakovski and Elin Pelin. They also met with representatives of the technical universities in Sofia and Plovdiv.
Other countries seeking to attract the BHTC investment included Serbia, Romania and Macedonia.
Behr-Hella group employs more than 1,500 people worldwide and posted 333 million euros ($430.9 million) in sales in 2012. Its customers include Ford, Renault, Bugatti, Volkswagen, Porsche and Lamborghini.