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Cobra rebirth gathers pace with new auto opportunities

Zoom  Zoom Issue Date:2013-07-12   Source:PUWORLD   Browse:509

The automotive industry’s growing desire for ‘lighter’ vehicles and local sourcing is providing a Wrexham manufacturer with a number of exciting new opportunities.

Cobra Automotive Engineering, which specialises in interior trim technologies and products, is currently in negotiations with a number of tier 1s and OEMs about bringing its ‘mass reduction’ expertise to future model platforms.

Existing contracts for supplying load covers, load floors, sun blinds and safety barrier nets have helped the firm develop a global reputation for design, quality and outstanding delivery performance.

It marks a major transformation in fortunes for the company and comes just nine months after it was bought out of administration by specialist investors Pemberton Capital.

In that time, leading industrialist Bob Woods has been appointed as Managing Director and has immediately introduced a long-term focus on developing strategic partnerships with existing and new customers.

“Cobra has always been at the forefront of design, new technologies and processes and had built up an enviable client base of leading tier 1 and car manufacturers,” explained Bob, who had previously held senior positions with Johnson Controls and Unipart.

“It invested heavily in new state-of-the-art automation following the promise of a major increase in volumes that, unfortunately, never materialised. This meant the company ran out of cash and couldn’t re-finance in time to fulfill orders.”

He continued: “The business never lost its potential and strong market presence and this was recognised by industry specialists Pemberton Capital, who purchased the firm and put in place a long-term investment plan.

“Since the change in ownership we have successfully met all of the production schedules for our clients, giving them confidence we can deliver what we promise. We have already started to look at new opportunities, most of which involve us using our solutions for taking weight out of vehicles.”

Cobra Automotive Engineering currently works with blue chip customers including General Motors and a number of Tier 1 suppliers.

It currently produces load floor assembly for the Astra Station Wagon, load cover for the Chevrolet Trailblazer & Spin, and front grille assembly for the Mini at Cowley.

Together this equates to annual sales of £7m, with nearly 50% of this figure being exported into plants in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Spain and Thailand.

“Everything is in place to grow, but grow at a rate that is manageable. We’ve got a healthy order book and a 76-strong workforce that are skilled in fabric die cutting, sewing, injection moulding, CNC machining and prototyping,” explained Bob.

There has already been massive investment at Cobra Automotive Engineering’s 70,000 sq ft facility on the outskirts of Wrexham.

An impressive 900 tonne injection moulding machine and high frequency welding are capabilities enjoying strong demand, but it is the company’s Hennecke high-pressure polyurethane robotic line that really sets it apart from domestic and international rivals.

The latter gives the firm 7500 hours of high quality production and the capacity to process 300,000 load floor boards every year.

Matt Williamson, Product Design Director, picked up the story: “There’s a real tradition at Cobra of being involved in early stage design and prototyping of new automotive products.

“It’s something we do really well and this is assisted by our mobile 3D laser scanning arm that enables fast, easy to understand graphical comparisons between CAD and ‘as built’ parts.

“Specialising in CNC machined prototypes, we are also able to offer the customer production representative prototypes. The parts that we generate can rapidly speed up time to market.”

With the financial backing of Pemberton Capital in place, Cobra Automotive Engineering is looking at a five-year business plan that will see it turnover £9m in twelve months and £20 annual sales by 2018.

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