Kobe Steel announced it would manufacture and sell aluminium extrusions for the automotive sector in the US. The new business will operate through a company called Kobelco Aluminium Products and Extrusions (KPEX) in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

KPEX will make bumper materials for cars and car frame materials. The new company will have an integrated production facility, with operations ranging from melting to fabrication. Plans call for construction of the plant to begin this summer. Fabrication will start in the latter half of 2017, and the melting to extrusion processes will begin in the latter half of 2018. Total spend is expected to reach US$46.7m, and KPEX anticipates creating 110 jobs.

KPEX will have a melting and casting line, an extrusion press and two bumper fabrication lines. Production capacity is estimated at about 500 tons per month.

North America is the world's second largest automotive market and car production is forecast to continue to grow in the future. In addition, higher corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for 2025 are accelerating the need to lighten car bodies. As aluminium extrusions are an effective way to reduce the weight of cars, demand for bumper beams, car frame materials and other extruded products is expected to greatly expand.

Kobe Steel has been supplying aluminium bumper materials to Japanese automakers since the 1990s. The company has over 20 years of experience in the Japanese market and has established a strong track record. Its original weight-saving proposals covering both product development, such as for high-strength 7000 series aluminium alloys, and cross-section design technology have received high acclaim from customers.

The establishment of KPEX will enable Kobe Steel to manufacture and supply the same high-quality aluminium extrusions and fabricated products available in Japan in North America. KPEX will also contribute to strengthening Kobe Steel's overall supply network, which covers Japan and the US.

KPEX will be Kobe Steel's second manufacturing operation in Bowling Green after Kobe Aluminium Automotive Products (KAAP) which began production in 2005 and makes aluminium forgings for automotive suspension systems and aluminium cast rods for compressors.