Auto supplier HBPO GmbH is expanding its North American presence by adding two new plants in Mexico and is adding more plastics production with a new contract to mold active grille shutters in the region.
HBPO, which specializes in front-end modular systems and services 19 automotive brands, said in a news release it plans to add just-in-sequence facilities in 2018 in Mexico to support two major automakers that have assembly plants in Aguascalientes and Saltillo, Mexico.
The company is a partnership involving the German companies Hella KGA Hueck & Co. and Mahle GmbH and France's Plastic Omnium SA. Mahle's holdings include the former Behr Group, an original partner in developing front end systems.
Each company has its own area of expertise: lighting and electronics (Hella); vehicle air conditioning and engine cooling (Mahle's former Behr units); and exterior body components, impact absorption and pedestrian protection systems (Plastic Omnium).
Due to supply agreements with manufacturers, HBPO could not confirm which automakers the new plants would be supplying. But Nissan Motor Corp. has three plants in Aguascalientes and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has two plants in Saltillo. Both automakers are customers of HBPO.
HBPO is adding on to its 2016 North America expansion after it began production of front-end modules for FCA's Chrylser Pacifica in Windsor, Ontario. HBPO also opened a plant last year in San Jose Chiapa, Mexico, to support Audi.
HBPO added a third shift to its San Jose Chiapa plant recently as well as its Toluca, Mexico, plant that supports an FCA plant assembling the Dodge Journey, Fiat 500 and Jeep Compass.
With the current momentum, HBPO North America President Anja Sprenger said that the company's unit sales of front-end modules and center consoles on the continent are expected to grow from 883,000 in 2016 to more than 1.4 million units in 2017. Employment is also projected to jump from 450 to more than 650 workers for HBPO North America this year.
Aside from the plant openings and extended operation at existing plants, HBPO is developing additional product offerings. According to Sprenger, the supplier is planning to invest in research and development for new product launches and plant additions over the next five years.
After adding a center console to its product line last year, HBPO is about to begin molding an active grille shutter for one automaker in North America next year. It also intends to produce its first electric-vehicle front-end module later this year.
HBPO annually produces more than 5.3 million front-end modules globally according to the company and it reported sales of 1.8 billion euros ($2 billion) in 2016.
Sprenger said the company's efficiency is the key. HBPO says it can deliver front-end modules for vehicles going down the assembly line with three hours of advance notice.
"By sourcing front-end modules from HBPO, a car maker can eliminate five or more work stations and up to 100 or more operations on its final assembly line," Sprenger said in a statement. "We are a proven systems integrator with a global reputation for quality and innovation."
HBPO is headquartered in Lippstadt, Germany. It has 32 locations in 14 countries, including plants and offices.