The Chattanooga investment and other customer-oriented strategies present myriad opportunities, said John Petroni, Gestamp U.S. president.
“The OEMs have to fund two types of vehicles: electric vehicles and internal combustion engine,” Petroni told Automotive News. “It leads to great opportunities for suppliers like us.
“There’s a lot of change,” he said. “When there’s change, there’s obviously opportunity for Tier 1 suppliers, and that’s kind of a magical time for us.”
The expansion of the two plants, which will undergo a retrofitting with new weld assembly and robotics, marks the supplier’s third expansion since opening there in 2009. The company, which operates more than 100 plants worldwide, invested $180 million in 2015 to triple its capacity in Chattanooga for Volkswagen, which is currently pouring $800 million into new products.
Gestamp was selected to produce a lightweight metal underbody for the ID4 using a hot stamping process. Gestamp will supply the electric vehicle with a package including doors, sidewalls, fenders and hood.
It will also supply the aluminum cover of the vehicle’s battery box, which Petroni said will give Gestamp new entree into to the emerging market for EV battery modules.
The supplier’s investment will double the size of its Ferdinand Piech Way plant to 300,000 square feet and add equipment to the Hickory Valley Road facility, construction of which has already begun.
Gestamp expects to add 260 jobs over the next five years with the expansion.
Gestamp will supply the first pilot vehicles mid-2021, with the vehicles expected to launch commercially in mid-2022.
Petroni said the work with Volkswagen illustrates the need for suppliers to develop advances in components to complement work automakers are doing in electrified powertrains.
“We can fill the gap and commit to huge investments like we have in Chattanooga” to support customers with electrification, he said. “It’s going to be a great growth engine for us going forward. We have to be prudent and wise, of course. But from what I see, there is going to be great opportunities in this transition.”