Volume 16 | Issue 2 | Year 2013

Based in Troy, Mich., HP Pelzer Automotive Systems is a world-class manufacturer of automotive NVH and soft trim components.

It is part of the larger HP Pelzer Group, a parent company founded by Helmut Pelzer in 1969 in Witten, Germany. In the past 40-plus years, the Group grew to include more than 30 manufacturing plants and at least five technical centers. Hands extend across the waters – Europe (western and eastern regions), Asia and North America and South America – and it employs more than 4,000 people.

“HP Pelzer Automotive Systems is the NAFTA division,” says Tony Daines, the division’s chief marketing officer (CMO).

The NAFTA arm was formed in 1996, reports Daines, and it brought beneath the umbrella at least eight more locations. Indeed, growth in North America has been rapid. The division brought in $3 million in its first year; by 2012, it was projecting sales in the $280 million range.

The NAFTA division offers significant advantages: advanced products, lean manufacturing, and component and vehicle benchmarking – all bolstered by a global R&D effort. HP Pelzer offers a wide range of automotive acoustic systems and trim parts. These are differentiated into four categories: engine, trunk, interior, and exterior.

Growth is not only reflected in revenue increase but also in the number of facilities. A supplier to auto manufacturing OEMs, HP Pelzer Automotive Systems has facilities spread throughout the NAFTA territory.

“Besides our Troy headquarters, we have seven plants and joint ventures in the NAFTA region,” indicates Daines. “This includes three manufacturing plants in Mexico – in Pachuca, Puebla, and Saltillo.”

Even though it’s NAFTA-focused, the division has no arrangements in Canada, Daines reveals. But the division has a strong US presence. Production facilities are located in Michigan (two plants in Port Huron), and a plant each in Georgia (Thompson), and Kansas (Eudora).

“Also, we’re engaged in a minority joint venture called Alliance Interiors,” says Daines. That 49-percent interest is located in Lansing, Mich. Further, the division also has a 50/50 joint venture (HPPC carpets, in Dalton, Ga.).

A Sound Enterprise
But wherever the division reaches, it engages in the most advanced – and sound, if you’ll pardon the pun – technologic and business practices. Consider the Troy location: It houses sales, research, acoustic, prototype and accounting functions for all of HP Pelzer’s NAFTA automotive business. Capabilities include felt processing, polyurethane processing, carpet molding and interior trim. Further, in-house acoustic and application and A2LA accredited material labs support all NAFTA facilities.

One Step Beyond
HP Pelzer Automotive Systems looks beyond materials such as polyurethane. “Our hot-mold process uses injected molded fiber, which provides a better acoustic performance than the standard polyurethane foam insulator. But that also comes with a much more stable material price,” says Daines.

That’s due to market circumstances, he reveals. “Polyurethane foam is based on the oil market, whereas natural and synthetic fibers are more market stable materials,” he says. “Thus, we can offer customers not only better acoustic performance but much better value.”

It also involves the “no waste” concept. “We strive to be vertically integrated in the supply chain and come up with ‘no waste’ technology,” says Daines. “Specifically, we are vertically integrated as far as lightweight foam, a product that replaces fiberglass; and cotton fiber for engine compartment applications. So, we are providing environmentally better prices for our customers. We offer a lighter weight solution, with acoustic enhanced performance that arises from what came before. And at the end of the day, so to speak, we place materials back into the stream.”

Indeed, in the 1980s, the landfill looked like the place to go. But that was then, and this is now: HP Pelzer Automotive Systems avoids the costs and, more importantly, will not fill the increasingly limited space.

Here’s another thing to consider: The Group has an acoustic lab located within the NAFTA arm’s Troy headquarters. In this setting, the organization has developed the capabilities to perform tests and evaluations on both automotive and non-automotive systems – an important consideration for an enterprise whose acoustic integration expertise could be readily applicable to other industries beyond the automotive.

That’s not to mention HP Pelzer’s Material Lab, an A2LA accredited laboratory that provides services to automotive and non-automotive business and supports all HP Pelzer North American operations (via in-house expertise and quick turnaround time achieved through efficient and highly skilled personnel). The lab contains a wide range of equipment, chambers and set-ups to handle many kinds of tests and materials – at all stages of production, which lead to industry benchmarks.

Stability via Diversification
But that’s a high-level picture. Let’s get back into the weeds, as far as HP Pelzer Automotive Systems is concerned. The division has extensive experience with numerous vehicles: small- and full-sized passenger cars, mid-sized and full-sized trucks, and minivans and sports utility vehicles.

And its client list has expanded with company growth. “Division growth has come through diversification of our customer base,” says Daines. “Up to 2008, we were biased toward Detroit companies. Since then, we have added European and Asian customers. We’re not dependant on any one area. After all, Detroit has lost market share to the German and Asian OEMs, and we brought them in as customers, which gives us more stability.”

Sustaining Success
As HP Pelzer Automotive Systems drives forward, its aim is to continue pursuing lightweight development strategies, which will be in line with the industry push toward 54.5mpg for 2025.

That gets back to sustainability. “As a leading edge lightweight development company, we engineer lightweight reusable solutions,” says Daines. “At this point, we are determined that any future growth we would witness should be sustainable.”

This is an approach that will only feed value back to company’s customers, he indicates.

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