GYONGYOSHALASZ, Hungary—In a country filled with relics and buildings that date back several centuries, one of the world's most technologically advanced and environmentally efficient facilities officially opened.
More than 1,400 Apollo employees, vendors, dealers and dignitaries—including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban—were in this rural Hungarian city on April 7 to witness Apollo Tyres Ltd. inaugurate its first greenfield plant outside of India.
Another 16,000 Apollo employees worldwide watched the ceremony unfold over the Internet, as the $505 million car and truck tire plant manufactured its first tire.
The plant, Apollo's sixth worldwide and second in Europe, opens with the capacity to produce 5.5 million passenger and light truck tires and 675,000 commercial vehicle tires per year once Phase I is complete. The highly automated, state-of-the-art facility will produce both Apollo- and Vredestein-brand tires for the European market.
"This is a proud and historic moment for Apollo Tyres," said Neeraj Kanwar, vice chairman and managing director of the Gurgaon-India based Apollo.
"It's the culmination of years of planning, hard work and people living the values cherished by Apollo of working as one family to make this dream happen," Kanwar said. "I thank all of our colleagues that have made this plant a reality."
The 1.6 million sq.-ft. plant is situated on a 178-acre plot of land located near Gyongyoshalasz, a community of 2,500 surrounded by rolling hills and greenery about 50 miles east of Budapest. The inauguration comes as the tire maker is celebrating its 40-year anniversary.
Kanwar and Orban, along with Kanwar's father, Apollo Chairman Onkar Kanwar, broke coconuts together on a foundation stone as part of a traditional Indian ceremony that is said to ensure future success.
Onkar Kanwar said the plant symbolizes the strengthening relationship between Hungary and India.
"This support is reflective of the long and friendly relationship that India has shared with Hungary," the elder Kanwar said.
"I would like to say that the seed that we have planted over the past two years has grown into a large tree and now bears fruit," he said. "I am confident that this not only will fuel the growth of the company, but take our nations to the greatest heights. Our aim is to create a benchmark manufacturing facility here."
Orban returned to the plant to celebrate the inauguration 24 months after he helped lay the foundation stone at the plant, calling the project one of "national importance."