NEW YORK Alcoa Inc.s wheel and transportation division officially opened its first fully integrated wheel manufacturing facility in Suzhou, China, Thursday.
Pittsburgh-based Alcoa began selling wheels out of Shanghai in 2004 and has since expanded its employee base to Guangzhou, Beijing, Jinan and Suzhou, but the company hadnt produced wheels in China before.
The new plant will produce primarily for the Chinese market, but the company said it might ship to neighboring markets in the future as well.
"With the growth of Chinas infrastructure and the success Alcoas wheel products have seen in the Chinese market over the past several years, it was a natural choice to further expand our global manufacturing footprint by building a facility that could manufacture our products locally," Alcoa wheels and transportation president Tim Myers said in a statement.
The $29-million facility has been manufacturing commercial truck, trailer and bus wheels since it opened in September, a company spokeswoman told AMM. The facility is equipped to produce forged wheels rather than those that are cast, which produce stronger, aligned grain wheel structures.
Alcoa sells wheel products to Chinese customers CIMC Trailers and BYD Bus, for which Alcoa also developed an all-aluminum bus space frame, the spokeswoman said.
Last month, Alcoa chairman and chief executive officer Klaus Kleinfeld told AMM that a vast infrastructure program in China and the government leadership turnover in March would boost growth in the country and make it more business-friendly (amm.com, Nov. 8).
The support of local Chinese governments allowed Alcoa to commence operations on the Suzhou wheel facility ahead of schedule, Myers said.