Kobe Steel Ltd. plans to establish a new company in Bowling Green, KY, to manufacture and sell aluminum extrusions for automotive manufacturing in the U.S., specifically parts for bumpers and auto frames. Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. (KPEX) is projected as a $46.7-million total investment, with production starting in late 2017.
The Kentucky location is the same site as Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products, which has been forging aluminum automotive suspension parts since 2005.
KPEX will be an integrated operation: melting and casting aluminum billets, extruding aluminum shapes, and forming bumpers. Construction would begin this summer, with bumper fabrication beginning in 2017. The melting, casting, and extrusion lines would start in 2018.
Kobe anticipates that its new subsidiary would employ 110 individuals.
Kobe Steel has been supplying aluminum bumper products to Japan’s auto industry for about 20 years, and has developed several weight-saving product innovations, including using high-strength 7000 series aluminum alloys and designing cross-sectional designs for extruded products.
KPEX will bring the manufacturing and supply capabilities from Japan to North America, which Kobe noted is the world’s second-largest automotive market. Domestic automotive production is forecast to continue growing.
Kobe also noted that automakers are expected to continue their efforts to reduce overall vehicle weight as they face higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for 2025. Aluminum extrusions are seen as an effective way to reduce the vehicle weight, as indicated by the success of the Ford F-150 all-aluminum pick-up truck, which make extensive use of extrusions in structural applications.