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Rehau to add first U.S. auto technical center

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LEESBURG, Va.—Rehau A.G. + Co.'s North American operation plans to build its first automotive technical center in the region adjacent to its production plants, one of which is being expanded, in Cullman, Ala.

Cost of the technical center project was estimated at between $2 million and $3 million. Work on the new complex is expected to begin in the spring of 2014 when a $115 million expansion project, launched in January 2013 at the firm's Automotive Group parts manufacturing facility, is slated to end.

That expansion was needed to accommodate a contract the company received from Mercedes-Benz in 2012 to develop and produce bumper assemblies for its C-class and M-class vehicle lines.

The company is adding another 129,000 square feet to the facility, which will put the building at about 655,000 square feet, a spokeswoman said. The other plant is occupied by the company's Construction Group. It spans 200,000 square feet.

Rehau processes elastomer modified thermoplastic olefin materials at the plant to produce bumpers and other exterior parts, including body side molding and splash guards, she said.

The company also works with silicone and thermoplastic elastomers at other facilities.

Its pact with Mercedes-Benz also spurred the need for the new technical center, the Rehau Automotive Group's first in North America. It will be dedicated to injection molding, paint, fabrication and supply chain processes.

The center will focus on automotive component and system design initiatives for the automotive sector. It also will include a Rehau Academy training room that will be used by both the Automotive Group and the Construction Group.

The center will employ about 45 engineers. Some will be new positions, and others will be transfers from the firm's automotive operation, the company said.

Construction of the new technical center will incorporate Rehau building products and systems from Rehau's Construction and Industry divisions.

"Previously, our technology development projects were executed out of centers in Germany and then shared with the engineering and production teams in Cullman," according to Reiner Leifhelm, the chief financial officer for automotive and a member of the firm's automotive executive board.

He said the center will centralize efforts to streamline productivity and keep more jobs related to the company's North American automotive business in the Cullman area.