BRATISLAVA -- The world's largest steel maker ArcelorMittal (IW 1000/35) said on Friday it had expanded its welding plant in Slovakia to supply mostly foreign car manufacturers in the region.
The announcement highlights the importance of the auto sector to several economies in the region, as well as to several leading auto groups in Europe and Asia.
"Eastern Europe is still a growth area for us," Robrecht Himpe, chief executive of ArcelorMittal's Flat Carbon Europe unit said.
"ArcelorMittal has invested 10 million euros (US$13.6 million) in a third production facility at our site in Senica, western Slovakia, to better serve our automotive clients who have moved production to eastern Europe," the company said.
The plant will produce laser-welded blanks, or sheets of flat material of varying thickness and with different mechanical properties.
This technology of preparing sheets with multiple properties before delivery to car plants, reduces production costs, saves weight and therefore reduces fuel consumption.
The new facility will employ 55 new people by 2014, it added. ArcelorMittal's Slovak unit already employs about 200 people in Senica.
The plant will supply mostly the PSA Peugeot Citroen group and Volkswagen which have huge production sites in Slovakia, as well as car manufacturers in neighboring countries.
Slovakia, the world's leading per-capita car producer, posted a record output of 900,000 vehicles in 2012, despite gloom on the car market in the European Union to which most of the production is destined.
The eurozone member of 5.4 million people is home to three big plants including German giant Volkswagen, South Korea's Kia and PSA Peugeot Citroen.
This former communist country is also home to a US Steel plant which earlier this year had mulled leaving over high energy prices, but then decided to stay on for five more years.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013