German auto supplier Benecke-Kaliko, part of Continental Corp., has officially launched its largest investment in its history — a new plant in China that makes low-emission, non-allergenic materials.
The plant, located in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, has been running series production since the end of 2015 with about 100 workers. Another 50 jobs will be added over the next few months, the company said.
The new plant will annually produce 10 million square meters of surface materials Acella Eco and Acella Eco green, doubling the company's capacity for Acella in China.
Acella features outstanding functionality and durability, the company said, serving as an enabling solution for automakers to meet stringent statutory requirements pertaining to the air quality of the passenger compartment. It is suitable for long-term, direct skin contact and is mainly used for vehicle seats and armrests.
Benecke-Kaliko said it has been developing odor-neutral and low-emission trim and upholstery materials for decades.
The Changzhou facility is operated by Benecke Changshun ECO Trim, a joint venture between Benecke-Kaliko and its Chinese partner Jiangsu Changshun Group Co. Ltd.
Benecke-Kaliko invested 40 million euros in the first phase of the facility — the largest investment in its history. A second expansion phase for the new facility is planned if demand continues to rise.
“This underlines the great importance of the Chinese market for us, as well as the excellent relations that Benecke-Kaliko has with its partners in the local automotive industry,” said Benecke-Kaliko CEO Dirk Leiss.
“From our Changzhou base, we can reach all of our automotive customers' plants quickly and easily. We have also been collaborating for some time with scientists from the local university,” Leiss explained the reasons behind the choice of location.
“In China, environmental protection has become a more significant strategic issue for improvement of the people's living standard and quality of life,” noted Ralf Cramer, member of the executive board of Continental AG, president and CEO of Continental China.
“Benecke Changshun Eco Trim (Changzhou) Co. Ltd. fully demonstrated Continental's strategy ‘in the market for the market.' Benecke-Kaliko, as special materials expert, will consciously combine eco-friendly technological strengths with local expertise and development, as well as sustainable production to provide optimized solutions and service for local customers and business partners,” Cramer said in a news release.
Benecke-Kaliko has been manufacturing in China with its joint venture partner since 2005. At its Zhangjiagang site, the Benecke-Changshun Auto Trim joint venture produces Xpreshn and Xpreshn HD compact and expanded foils as well as Acella trim and upholstery material.
The new plant in Changzhou will focus on environmental friendly products Acella Eco and Acella Eco green, in order to satisfy increasing demand and to free up capacity in Zhangjiagang.
Benecke-Changshun also operates an R&D center in Zhangjiagang for advancing production processes and product development for the Chinese market. It also added a design office there a year ago.
The Benecke-Kaliko Group, headquartered in Hanover, Germany, operates seven manufacturing facilities in Germany, Spain, Poland, China and Mexico. Benecke-Kaliko and its 2,500-plus employees generated annual sales of 549 million euros in 2015.