Detroit — Cie. Plastic Omnium has been a key player in the automotive plastics arena for more than 40 years.
It was a supplier when the first plastic bumpers came on the market in 1975. It was the first global supplier of plastic fuel tanks in 1984.
And it is building a technology and global footprint that will ensure it remains at the center of the auto industry, whatever future cars may look like or how they are driven.
“As far as [millennials] are concerned, a company like ours that makes things is dead. But they need us. That's the good news,” said Laurent Burelle, chairman and CEO of Plastic Omnium, in a Jan. 11 interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “They will need something to bolt on their stuff — their sensors, their radars, their cameras, their whatever. They will need to have a body — a box — to safely transport them from point A to point B.
“If the [powertrain] is hydrogen, if it is gasoline, if it is electrical, whatever, they will need to have a safe body — a light, safe body and if possible one that is colorful and sexy to attract buyers.”
Late last year, the Levallois, France-based injection molder and blow molder inked a deal to buy the bumper fascia business of Faurecia SA, a deal that will bring it additional production and market share in North America.
For 2015, Plastic Omnium had $2 billion in sales in North America and 4,500 employees in the region. It is the 47th biggest global auto supplier now and with the acquisition of Faurecia's operations, it will grow to 25th.
In 2014, it posted 5.3 billion euros ($5.7 billion) in sales globally. With the addition of the Faurecia operations, it said it will have 8 billion euros ($8.6 billion) in global sales.
Plastic Omnium will add two front-end module plants to its current North American footprint with one plant in Canada, eight in the United States and 10 in Mexico, supplying injection molded fascia, blow molded tanks and front and rear modules, which include a variety of parts which can integrate lighting, cables and radiators. It also makes diesel treatment systems for trucks.
In total, the company expects to invest $450 million in new production in North America in the next five years and another $200 million in research and development in the region.
By 2020, it aims to evenly divide its sales with a third of its business in North America, a third in Europe and a third in Asia. Right now, Europe makes up 50 percent of its sales with another 25 percent in North America and 20 percent in Asia with the rest divided between the rest of the world.