A unique West Midlands-China car industry venture is creating 5,000 new jobs at a £142 million factory in the Far East thanks to UK knowhow and Chinese resources.
Executives at Coventry-based Covpress Holdings have unveiled details of a new automotive parts factory building programme at Dongying in the Shandong province, just a year after a historic £30 million buyout.
Building work on the new factory, designed to supply body parts to all the major car firms in China, has been launched less than 12 months on from the link-up between industrial powerhouse Shandong Yongtai and Telford-based TIA Treadsetters.
The joint UK-China venture paved the way for the buyout of body panels supplier Covpress, one of the West Midlands’ oldest manufacturers, which started life as the Coventry Radiator and Presswork Company in 1890.
The half-a-million-square-feet factory in eastern China marks one of the biggest examples of Chinese investment in the UK car industry delivering major industrial projects backed by UK skills and expertise.
Kit Halliday, joint chief executive (Europe) for Covpress, said: “The Chinese have got the infrastructure, what they are looking for is the skills. They want to invest in the UK, to be seen in the UK and our role is to assist in getting their operation up and running in China. We supply the skills and they build the building. They have identified the presses that are required and it will be up and running by Christmas.
“This would be the biggest facility of its kind in China and within 18 months, it will create 5,000 jobs. Parts will be supplied to all the big boys in China, and it will be open in the early part of next year.
“This is a unique venture, the first time that a first-tier supplier has been assembled, put together and trained by Europeans.”
Mr Halliday said Coventry-based workers had travelled to China to advise their Far East counterparts on pressworking, toolmaking and manufacturing processes.
“It’s about quality, health and safety issues etc. They want to be sure they are manufacturing to European standards in China and the way to do that is to get the UK workers out there training their people.
“Timelines are difficult and we have to accept that we have got two separate cultures but the Chinese are embracing this, they really are. We have learnt that with support and the right strategies, that nothing is impossible.”
Covpress, which in the 1960s was home to the largest manufacturers of radiators in Britain, is one of the UK’s best known suppliers of body panels to the car industry, with clients ranging from Jaguar Land Rover to Nissan and Renault.
The £30 million buyout, which saw a 65 per cent and 35 per cent stake shared between the Chinese and UK backers respectively, has already created 50 new jobs in Coventry, including assembly line operators, and managers.
Covpress is now targeting a doubling of turnover over the next two years, with anticipated further expansion of supply markets into America, India and Brazil.
“We are recruiting here on a weekly basis and there are more jobs to come. We have already invested over £10 million in equipment, and there will be a further £15 million invested next year,” said Mr Halliday.