Metaldyne has officially opened its plant in Suzhou, China, marking the first operation for the company in the emerging automotive market.

Metaldyne invested $US10m in the project and expects revenues of more than $100m when the plant reaches full capacity in a few years.

With growth expected in China, the company will make a decision on a second plant by the end of the year, according to Metaldyne chairman and CEO Tim Leuliette.

"We will invest $30-$50m in China over the next five years," Leuliette said. "We see great growth opportunity here. In 2006 China represented 0% of our revenue. By 2012 it will represent 6-7%."

That growth is incremental to Metaldyne's growth in other parts of the world.

"There is significant customer interest in Metaldyne's product localisation plans in China and we already have a diverse customer base scheduled to launch soon after the plant opens," said Jim Hudak, vice president, sales and engineering - Asia.

"We are in discussions with other customers in China and are selectively determining where to put our investment dollars."

Located 46 miles (75 kilometres) northwest of Shanghai, the 92,000-sq-ft. (8,547-sq-m) plant will manufacture crankshaft damper assemblies, knuckle and control arm assemblies, aluminium diecast valve bodies and powder metal products.

Current OEM customers include Beijing Benz DaimlerChrysler, Chery, Dongfeng-Peugeot-Citroen, Shanghai General Motors and Soueast Motors.

The facility currently has 54 employees and is expected to grow to 97 by the end of this year. At full capacity it will employ 350-400 people.

"We are committed to establishing operations wherever our customers need us and to make certain all our facilities have access to our company's resources worldwide," said JoAnne Ryan, vice president and general manager of Metaldyne China Operation.

"The Suzhou operation will coordinate its activities with other Metaldyne plants to ensure an integrated understanding of our customers' needs and demands globally."

Suzhou is currently launching several products for the China market.

These include crankshaft dampers for the Buick Regal, GL8 and Firstland and the Dongfeng Peugeot 307 and 206 as well as the Dongfeng Citroen Picasso, Elysee and ZX Fukang.

Transmission bodies for several Chevrolet and Buick products, front and rear knuckle assemblies for the Chrysler Sebring, brake module assemblies and lower control arm assemblies for Soueast Motors, front brake corner modules and lower control arm assemblies for the Chrysler Town and Country and Voyager are also in the order book.

In addition, the suspension system Suzhou provides for the Chrysler minivan is one of the first aluminium systems produced in China, which led other OEMs to pursue aluminium suspension designs with Metaldyne.

"We pride ourselves on the innovation of our employees," Leuliette said. "We know our business and financial success is driven by their collective strength, talent and knowledge... so we empower and encourage them to bring their innovative ideas forward."

The Suzhou facility is located in the China-Singapore cooperative Suzhou Industrial Park, one of the most successful industrial parks in China.