Kobe Steel, Ltd. plans to manufacture and sell aluminum extrusions for the automotive sector in the U.S. in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The facility will operate through a company called Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. (KPEX) and will manufacture make bumper and frame materials for cars.
The $46.7 million investment will include a new integrated production facility with operations ranging from melting and casting to extrusion and fabrication. Plans call for construction of the plant to begin this summer. Fabrication will start operation in the latter half of 2017, and the melting, casting, and extrusion processes will begin in the latter half of 2018.
North America is the world’s second largest automotive market and car production is forecast to continue to grow in the future. In addition, higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for 2025 are accelerating the need to lighten car bodies. As aluminum extrusions are an effective way to reduce the weight of cars, demand for bumper beams, car frame materials, and other extruded products is expected to greatly expand.
Kobe Steel has been supplying aluminum bumper materials to Japanese automakers since the 1990s. The company has over 20 years of experience in the Japanese market and has established a strong track record. The company’s original weight-saving proposals cover both product development, such as for high-strength 7000 series aluminum alloys, and cross-section design technology have received high acclaim from customers.
The establishment of KPEX will enable Kobe Steel to manufacture and supply the same high-quality aluminum extrusions and fabricated products available in Japan to the North American market. Through innovative weight-saving proposals, Kobe Steel aims to gain the trust of automakers in North America. KPEX will also contribute to strengthening Kobe Steel’s overall supply network, which covers Japan and the U.S.
KPEX will be Kobe Steel’s second manufacturing operation in Bowling Green after Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products, LLC (KAAP), which began production in 2005. KAAP makes aluminum forgings for automotive suspension systems and aluminum cast rods for compressors and has also recently announced its own expansion plans in a $57 million investment. The KAAP investment will include thepurchase of 31 acres and the addition of 116,000 sq ft of manufacturing space in the South Central Kentucky Industrial Park. New equipment will include two new forging presses, a new melting furnace, and several new production lines. The expansion will increase production capacity up to 750,000 pieces per month. Start-up of the new forging production equipment is anticipated to begin in 2017.