Gestamp Automocion SA, a Spain-based multinational in vehicle components, has strengthened its presence in China by opening a new 50 million euros ($56.58 million) production facility in Tianjin.
At the opening ceremony on Thursday, Gestamp Executive Chairman Francisco J. Riberas said that China is "the most important priority" of the firm's globalization strategy, adding: "We are fully committed to bringing the latest technologies to the Chinese automotive market in order to make lighter and safer cars."
The new plant, Gestamp Auto Components (Tianjin) Co Ltd, brings Gestamp's China count up to 11 production facilities and 2 research and development centers.
"This state-of-the-art plant ... seeks to further enhance product quality, including the latest innovations in hot stamping, and complements local suppliers with a hightech product offering," he said, adding that Gestamp will particularly work with "Chinese brands that are strongly focused on electrical vehicle".
The facility is a joint venture with Beijing Hainachuan Automotive Parts Co Ltd. Cai Suping, chairman of BHAP, said the collaboration marks a significant step toward lighter car components and contributes to the national strategy of integrating development within the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
The launch of the production base comes amid a fall in China's auto sales. In October, sales of passenger vehicles like sedans and minivans declined 13 percent year-on-year to over 2 million units, the China Association of Auto Manufacturers reported. Over the wider January-October period, sales fell 1 percent from a year earlier to 19.3 million vehicles, the association said.
Other regions are also seeing falls. In the EU, new car registrations were down 7.3 percent in October compared to a year earlier, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association said on Thursday.
However, Kevin Stobbs, president of Gestamp Asia, said the fall can be cyclical, adding: "We have got some concerns, but we believe it'll be short-term."
Stobbs said China's pledge to further open up will not only inject momentum into the country's development, but also be conducive to foreign companies. He cited the government's ongoing efforts to relax foreign ownership limits on carmakers.
Stobbs said he had confidence in the country's future growth momentum.
China has been very well to move from a traditional low-cost manufacturing into more of a technology and service provider, and it is growing into a "more matured" market, he stressed.
"Key issues for us moving forward (in China) are environmental policies," he said, adding that Gestamp's plants have been fitted with green facilities to handle the issue.
In 2017, sales of Gestamp group in China totaled 736 million euros, with a workforce of over 5,100 employees. Between 2013 and 2017, Gestamp invested more than 360 million euros into the country.