Rubén Lostal
Plant Manager
Mubea Mexico
/
View from the Top

Drop Weight, Gain Opportunities

By Alejandro Salas | Thu, 04/30/2020 - 11:16

Weight matters in the automotive industry. OEMs are eager for lighter parts to boost vehicle performance and fuel efficiency. Keeping up with the lightweighting trend can determine an automotive supplier’s success, says Rubén Lostal, Plant Manager at Mubea de México.

German automotive supplier Mubea has made lightweight one of the guiding principles for innovation in the production of powertrain, suspension, seat and chassis components for OEMs and the aftermarket. The company’s several R&D centers in Europe and the US collaborate directly with customer automakers to design lighter parts for new vehicles. “Mubea can deliver products that are 5-10 percent lighter than its direct competition,” says Lostal. “We even produce axial tubes for transmissions that weigh 10 percent less than other options in the market.”

In Mexico, the company is 100 percent focused on producing original equipment components, such as coil, valve and suspension springs, stabilizer bars and clamps for fluid lines. Mubea has manufacturing facilities in Coahuila and the Bajio region, including a new factory in Apaseo el Grande that was announced in 2018. “We identified several opportunities to supply Honda and Mazda in the Bajio region,” says Lostal. “This enticed Mubea to open a new manufacturing facility in that area.” The company’s client portfolio in Mexico includes Mazda, Honda, Volkswagen, Audi, Ford, GM, Daimler and, since 2019, Hyundai and Kia. “We have kept stable production volumes with solid increases since 2016,” he says, adding that the Mexican market contributed to 5 percent of the €2.2 billion (US$2.5 billion) in sales that Mubea generated globally in 2017.

Procurement of raw materials remains one of the main hurdles for Mubea to develop a stronger local sourcing strategy, according to Lostal. “Mubea uses special alloys that cannot be found in Mexico,” he says. “Since these materials are not produced by Mexican steel mills, Mubea must import them from Japan, the US and Europe at an extra logistics cost.”

Despite this challenge, Lostal expects Mubea de México’s operations will maintain the growth momentum it has enjoyed in previous years, adding that the new trade environment resulting from the USMCA deal will offer new opportunities for European companies to set up shop in the country. “European investors are still attracted to Mexico’s skilled, inexpensive labor,” he says. “Companies are also likely to produce more components in the country as a strategy to avoid tariffs on auto parts and vehicles.” In the case of Mubea, Lostal says stricter rules of origin can open new business opportunities for the company since all components leaving the company’s production lines have a Mexican certificate of origin.

New projects, such as BMW’s facility in San Luis Potosi, could also provide new opportunities for Mubea’s Mexico operations, but in the medium to long term. The company already supplies components for BMW in Europe. When the OEM starts looking for local suppliers, which Lostal says could happen around 2021, Mubea will be ready to enter that supply chain. Meanwhile, the company will focus on stabilizing production at its new plant in Apaseo el Grande and maintaining production levels at its Saltillo facilities, taking advantage of Mexico’s economic stability to continue growing.

 

Photo by:   MBN
Alejandro Salas Alejandro Salas Senior Editorial Manager