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S.C. plant to supply Ford, Honda

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The South Charleston stamping plant will be a primary supplier for Honda and Ford, said John Craig, president of Gestamp North America.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Tuesday that Gestamp will invest a minimum of $100 million in the plant and eventually create up to 700 jobs.

The "primary supplier" label is significant because it means the South Charleston plant will be a critical link in the supply chains of the two automakers. Suppliers that aren't "primary" may provide parts during peak demand periods. That can create wild swings in employment levels.

Craig didn't say what parts Gestamp will supply to Honda and Ford from South Charleston, and he didn't say which Honda and Ford models are involved.

Asked if the plant will provide parts for Volkswagen's Passat assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., Craig said, "We have a plant in Chattanooga that produces a lot of parts for the Passat. It is undefined if we will move some production (to South Charleston) for the Passat."

While the decision to make parts for Honda and Ford in South Charleston has been made, "everything else is being evaluated right now," Craig said. "Is it possible additional work will be brought there? It's a possibility. It's a large facility and there are lots of opportunities to do things for our customers we were not able to do in the past.

"We will be pursuing opportunities with BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Honda, General Motors, Toyota and Ford from that location. It's fair to say we're evaluating what other business in other Gestamp locations would make sense in the South Charleston location.

"In all honesty, we don't want to make a big hoopla about our customers and strategy for competitive reasons," he said. "South Charleston will be our mid-south location to support our customers."

Gestamp will introduce a new technology called press hardening in South Charleston, Craig said.

The conventional cold-stamping process involves stamping an auto body part out of a cold sheet of steel using great force.

Press hardening involves heating boron steel and then stamping it. "You can produce a part that's thinner and stronger structurally for crash enhancement," Craig said. "It's a new technology that's really taking off."

It was previously reported that Gestamp would start work at South Charleston with one production line. "We're starting with two lines actually," Craig said. "We do expect that we will expand to five or six lines at some point. It's hard to say for sure until you see how much room things take. With the space available, I think five will be the maximum.

"We have equipment arriving - the first shipment in September, the second shipment in October," he said.

It also was previously reported that Gestamp has signed a 12-year lease with an option to renew for 12 additional years. On Wednesday Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said that Gestamp has a 12-year lease with two 12-year renewal options, "so the possibility is for 36 years."

The state has offered to have its WorkForce West Virginia employment services agency accept job applications but details have not been worked out yet.

Gestamp is a privately held company headquartered in Madrid, Spain. The company has grown rapidly in recent years.

In 2009 Gestamp acquired a unit of Edscha, a German company. The unit makes auto mechanisms like door latches.

Gestamp became an international powerhouse last July when it acquired ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe's Metal Forming Group.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

 


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