Mexico City — Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc. is moving ahead with plans to have its own compounding facility in Mexico by 2018.
“We're fast-tracking the project, and will be here [in Mexico] either by building, acquisition or partnering in a joint venture,” sales director Scott Kushion said March 8 at Plastimagen 2016 in Mexico City.
Asahi Kasei in February opened a 12-employee sales office in Queretraro. Kushion said the firm would like to find a location in or near that city, which would provide good rail and port access.
In the near term, Asahi Kasei's Mexican operations will benefit from the April opening of the firm's new compounding plant in Athens, Alabama. That site will provide savings in the form of reduced shipping costs to Mexico.
The 100,000-square-foot Athens plant will have 70 million pounds of annual compounding capacity and is being built at a cost of around $30 million. Asahi Kasei officials have said that the firm needs a plant in the region to supply the growing number of automakers who have established plants in the U.S. South.
Mexican demand for Asahi Kasei's polypropylene compounds is growing at a rate of 15 percent per year, led mainly by the automotive sector. Automotive uses make up about 80 percent of the firm's Mexican sales, Mexico country and sales manager Victor Mora said at Plastimagen.
Fowlerville, Mich.-based Asahi Kasei — a unit of global manufacturing conglomerate Asahi Kasei Corp. of Tokyo — does a good deal of business with Japanese automakers in Mexico, Kushion added. The Mexican market now accounts for around 10 percent of Asahi Kasei's total North American sales.
Asahi Kasei's PP compounds are used in many under-hood auto parts such as junction boxes and radiator bottles. Recent new applications include side tool boxes on Dodge Ram trucks, which previously had been made of nylon or polyethylene.
Outside of automotive, Mora said that Mexican market opportunities for Asahi Kasei include appliances and electronics. The firm ranks as one of North America's 30 largest compounders and concentrate makers.