Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products (KAAP), a US joint venture, announced plans to further expand its production facilities to meet rising demand in North America for aluminium forged suspension products.

KAAP began by supplying mainly Japanese automakers in the United States but now also supplies US vehicle manufacturers. It anticipates automakers in future will use its products in a wider range of vehicles.

Based in Bowling Green, Kentucky, [also home to GM’s iconic Chevrolet Corvette plant – ed], KAAP decided in November 2015 to install a melting and casting line and two forging presses. Mass production is scheduled to begin this summer (2017). When this capital investment is completed, the supplier will have three melting and casting lines and eight forging presses. Production capacity will increase from the current 540,000 pieces per month to 750,000.

In the latest expansion plan just announced, KAAP plans to spend US$53m (about JPY5.8bn) to install an additional melting and casting line and two forging presses. Start up is to begin in stages from autumn 2018, with completion slated for early 2019. KAAP anticipates hiring 100 more people.

When the latest capital investment is completed, KAAP will have four melting and casting lines and 10 forging presses. Production capacity will increase to 970,000 pieces per month, and employees are anticipated to reach 600.

KAAP was established in 2003 as a joint venture by Kobe Steel, Mitsui & Co and Toyota Tsusho to produce aluminium forged suspension products in the US. Since production started in 2005, it has maintained the top share of the North American market for such products, the supplier claimed.

The US is the world’s second-largest automobile market KAAP expects car production to continue growing. Production of approximately 17.5m cars in 2016 is projected to increase to 19m in 2020.

Owing to their light weight, alloy forged suspensions contribute to improved fuel economy and demand has been rising due to the increasing need to reduce the weight of car bodies in response to environmental regulations.