Alysha Webb, Automotive News Europe
Suzhou, China - British engineering group Tomkins opened two new plants in this small city an hour west of Shanghai earlier this month.
The plants are part of a major expansion in China for London-based Tomkins to take advantage of China's low-cost production.
The new factories are operated by Tomkins' subsidiaries Trico Products and Gates and are located in the Suzhou Industrial Park.
Trico's plant makes wiper blade systems. Gates' factory produces transmission belts.
"One has to be in China because that is where our customers are and where they see growth," said Tomkins CEO James Nicols.
Trico's plant will have a 20 million blade capacity when fully finished in 2007 and 2 million wiper system capacity. The facility will export 80 percent of its output the first year, primarily to other Asian countries, Australia and Europe.
Gates' plant is a joint venture with Japan's Unitta Corp. The Gates-Unitta Power Transmission (Suzhou) makes belts for everything from jogging treadmills to power equipment, though the auto business is a main focus. The plant's output will primarily be for the local market.
Another Tomkins company, fuel cap maker Stant Manufacturing, will also begin manufacturing in Suzhou in the near future, said Gregory Brown, Stant's managing director for Asia.
Brown sees growing opportunity in the China market, as the government enforces increasingly strict emissions standards.
"Emissions include fumes coming from fuel caps," he said.
All the Tomkins companies are already talking to Chinese automakers such as Chery Automobile and Geely Group, who are looking to export to Europe.
From Automotive News Europe (A Crain publication)