Faurecia is setting up a new plant at Chennai, which will cater to Isuzu pick-ups.
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Faurecia Interior Systems (FIS), a global leader in automotive interiors, is building its third plant at Chennai to manufacture instrument panels (IP), door panels (DP) and centre consoles (CC) at an investment of Rs.90 crore. The plant is expected to begin production in October 2016, and will supply IP, DP and CC for the Isuzu D-Max range of pick-ups apart from a multi-utility vehicle that will hit the Indian market in 2018. Expected to complement the two other facilities of the company in the same region, and which cater to the needs of Ford India, the new facility is also likely to serve many new vehicle platforms
Apart from a mandate from Isuzu Motors India, the Chennai facility should help FIS to drive other ambitious projects that it has undertaken. FIS has bagged an order from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to supply Instrument Panel (IP) for their Jeep model which is expected to be launched in India in the second quarter of 2017. FIS will also supply IP and CC for Renault’s forthcoming vehicle, which is expected to hit the road by 2017. For their existing customer Ford, the interior trim manufacturer will be manufacturing IP, DP and CC from 2017 for EcoSport MCA, domestic and North America. By the end of 2016, FIS will open a small assembly (sequencing) plant at Pune to supply IP and CC to FCA for the Jeep model mentioned above. The company will be setting up a state of the art paint shop too. To be built with technology inputs from Faurecia, the new paint shop will be used to produce soft painted, high gloss and matte finished interior parts. Expressed Vidyadhar Limaye, Director, FIS India, that the need for technology inputs in IP for recent orders bagged was sensed to meet the requirements, present and the future. “In order to meet the requirements we decided to set up a high-technology plant at Chennai. Spread over 8 acres, it will have a built-up area of 19,000 sq. m. The plant will have a broad range of technologies under one roof and the best-in-class machines for high and low tonnage injection moulding, negative thermoforming, closed mould foaming, weakening by milling and weakening by hot knife technology,” stated Limaye. FIS has invested Rs. 60 crore thus far in its facilities at Chennai. The new plant would hike the investment to Rs.150 crore.
Despite bagging orders from Isuzu and FCA, FIS has not let its attention deviate from the list of its existing clients. The Maraimalai Nagar plant of the company, operational since April 2013, has been serving Ford operations at Chennai as a dedicated sequencing facility. Out of the Maraimalai plant, Faurecia ships in-sequence micropits, door panels and consoles to the Ford compact SUV, the EcoSport, for domestic as well as export models. The Maraimalai plant has been certified by Ford as Q1 starting January 2015. Said Limaye, “We were able to get this certification from Ford because of the robust implementation of the Faurecia Excellence System (FES) which ensures efficient manufacturing operations. Ford gives Q1 certification to its suppliers based on certain parameters and criteria. It took us 21 months after the plant was commissioned to get the Q1 certification.” “When the new plant becomes operational, we plan to move all the equipment to the new facility to support the existing and upcoming business. The plant would thus have all the standard methodologies and global safety features,” he added.
Aiming at burgeoning SUV market
The gap between SUVs and pick-ups is fading. A look at the Renault Duster Oroch or the Chevrolet Trailblazer will highlight this fact. The Trailblazer shares the platform with the Colorado pick-up truck. The strategy to use a common platform to spring an SUV and a pick-up are on the rise. Aware of such developments as well as the rising preference for SUVs, Limaye averred that they are certain to meet such future demands. “Buyers who were keen to buy sedans are now keen to buy SUVs. Soft-touch instrument panels are gaining momentum. The outlook of customers is changing. That of the manufacturers is changing too. There is a shift taking place from basic variants to value-added and premium variants. We are gearing up to meet such and other demands,” he stated. FIS, in view of the developments happening around it, is exploring opportunities for value addition in various vehicle segments. It is also keen to create an opening in the market for itself. Opined Limaye, “We are confident to compete in the current system. Suitable investments have also been made. We are moving with the current trends where users are looking for comfort zone in the cabin space. Consumption of space by IP is proportionate to style. There are two ways that Tier 1 suppliers execute their programmes. As ‘Full Service Supplier (FSS)’ or as ‘Build to Print (BTP)’, based on which our involvement in the programme is decided.” “In FIS, we have a freedom to suggest and implement our global and local innovations and could suggest lateral inputs to automakers. However in BTP, we have only limited options and have to go according to the design standards given by the car maker,” he added. The R&D engineering centre of FIS in Pune is capable of serving all design requirements. The centre has an innovation cell, which is working on some cost-effective innovations that are expected to find a place in autos made by local automakers,” added Limaye. The R&D engineering centre at Pune provides vehicle manufacturers with design, development, testing and validation services. Capable of serving base, value and premium segments according to Limaye, Faurecia has come to map the preferences in each market it is present in. In India, for example, it is the base segment that works the most. In other countries it accounts for only a fraction of the sales. Trends like these, which differ from market to market, pose a big challenge for Faurecia. In India, they pose a big challenge for FIS. There is a direct influence on costs.
To widen its appeal, FIS has forayed into kinematic parts like glove boxes, air vents, cup holders, and docking devices. The company supplies air vents to the Brazilian market from India. A dedicated facility for air vents and other kinematic parts is being set up by Faurecia at Pune with an investment of Rs.15 crore. “With growing preference of buyers for decorated and sophisticated car interiors, car makers are coming up with innovative and high-end interior solutions. FIS in such a situation looks to add decorative air-vents in its product portfolio considering many automakers are importing them. It can fetch us some good business in the growing market, which in a few years would be the third biggest in the world. The engineering center at Pune backs us with the technical know-how in this area,” said Limaye. He concluded, “We also have solutions for docking devices. These are currently on trial with our customers, and could be launched any time soon. We can cater to 100 per cent of such an additional business in the upcoming Pune facility.”