Safelite Closing Guarantees More Imports

The number of units of auto glass imported into the United States has been growing, and the closure of its Wichita, Kan., manufacturing facility by Safelite Glass Corp. has guaranteed that the number of imports will continue to increase.

A spokesman for the Columbus, Ohio manufacturer said that a total of 70 percent of the 1.8 million pieces of auto glass it produces each year are made in its Enfield, N.C. facility. This would be 1.26 million units annually.

That means the 540,000 units which had been produced in Wichita now have to come from somewhere else. And, the company made it clear that it would be buying more product. There has been industry speculation that the production gap would have to come from off shore, with China deemed most likely. However, a Safelite spokesman said that it has not yet been decided where that production will come from, but it will not necessarily be from China, he emphasized. "We're looking at global outsourcing, as other manufacturers have and are, but that doesn't mean we're not looking at other U.S. companies as well," he told glassBYTEs.

Safelite has said that it is moving some parts from Kansas to North Carolina to increase capacity at that facility, but industry sources familiar with the situation are skeptical that any equipment of significance will be moved. They point out that Safelite had little alternative but to close its Wichita facility, as it was 40 years old and would require modernization if not closed.

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