Cars manufactured across Europe are set to be put through their paces in Wales to ensure they can withstand extreme weather. They will find conditions ranging from the South Pole to the Sahara. However, this has little to do with the Welsh climate, but everything to do with a new £4 million state-of-the-art Wind Tunnel owned by Calsonic, the integrated automotive systems manufacturer.

The facility is part of a new Environmental and Climatic Test Facility and Advanced Learning Centre launched yesterday (Tuesday 12 September) by First Secretary Rhodri Morgan and attended by Mr Haruo Ohno, Chairman of Calsonic-Kansei Corporation.

The multi-million pound facility at Calsonic’s Technical Centre in Llanelli, Wales, is one of only eight in Europe. It will provide Calsonic with a strong competitive edge ensuring that the company remains at the forefront of technological developments in the automotive industry.

The Wind Tunnel will enable Calsonic to test vehicles in all world-wide climatic conditions, in temperatures ranging from -20ºC to 55ºC, and to alter humidity and wind speed conditions to any required level. Large vehicle manufacturers throughout Europe are set to benefit from the technology, including Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi.

“This facility will help meet our customers’ expectations of developing systems within their vehicles,” says Calsonic European President Shinohara San. “It will provide a foundation stone to support Calsonic’s expanding business in Europe and improve our ability to win new business.”

“The project has only been made possible by generous support from the Welsh Development Agency and the National Assembly of Wales, who have provided financial support and assistance in establishing the funding route and management of the construction,” Mr San added.

The new climatic chamber will significantly improve the plant’s prospects and ability to win further new business by reducing development time, with engineers undertaking complete vehicle testing on the same site.

The facility will also allow Calsonic to offer development facilities to their customers and to meet the needs of the rapidly changing global automotive industry, including the constantly reducing lead times demanded by vehicle manufacturers.

The purpose-designed Advanced Learning Centre - also being opened today, and the first of its type within the group - will provide facilities to train Calsonic engineers, as well as engineers from the company’s supply chain, in all aspects of Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) skills.

Calsonic’s Technical Centre is the company’s European base for Research and Development. It develops Cooling and Climate Control systems from concept to final production. One thousand two hundred people are employed at it’s Llanelli operation, of which 130 are highly skilled engineers covering all the disciplines required to support these products. This latest investment will create an additional ten new jobs and safeguard a further 30 positions.

The investment will underpin the company’s Llanelli operations, add a new dimension to the research and development work already being undertaken in Wales and have a beneficial knock-on effect on the economy of the region.

The creation of the centre has been achieved with support from West Wales TEC and Carmarthenshire County Council.