Kobe Steel turning out aluminum sheet in China
Japanese manufacturer eyes soaring demand for lightweight autos
WATARU KODAKA, Nikkei staff writer
TIANJIN, China -- Kobe Steel kicked off production of aluminum sheet for cars at its plant here, expecting a rise in demand for lightweight vehicles as the Chinese government tightens environmental restrictions.
"We will bolster our manufacturing capability in China and supply high quality aluminum," said Chairman Hiroya Kawasaki at the plant's opening ceremony Thursday. The Japanese steelmaker projects the Chinese market for automotive aluminum sheet will grow from the current annual 50,000 tons to 300,000 tons by 2025. China is the world's largest automobile market, with about 28 million vehicles sold last year.
Kobe Steel is the first Japanese manufacturer to set up an aluminum sheet factory in China, according to the company. It aims to reach the Tianjin plant's maximum annual output capacity of 100,000 tons by 2020. The plant will process aluminum rolled in Japan to produce sheet used for exterior body panels, such as roofs and engine hoods. The sheet will be supplied to automakers from the U.S., Japan, China and Europe.
Kobe Steel spent around 19 billion yen ($171 million) on the Tianjin plant, on which construction began in 2014. In January, the factory started producing on a test basis.