From Nissan to Volkswagen, Kasai UK leads the automotive market 

Renowned for its specialization in the development and manufacturing of car interior trim parts, Kasai UK Ltd (Kasai) has emerged as a prominent player within the UK automotive industry. With a portfolio that includes supplying door trim, body sides, and pillar trim to esteemed clients like Nissan and other manufacturers, Kasai has solidified its position in the market. The company’s German plant further strengthens its reach as a supplier for Volkswagen. Placing a strong emphasis on sustainability, Kasai actively collaborates with university students to explore innovative techniques for processing scrap materials. The company is committed to plastic recycling efforts and has engaged an MBA student to identify additional opportunities for enhancing sustainability throughout its operations. Kasai’s unwavering dedication to both profitability and environmental stewardship continues to drive its success in the dynamic automotive sector. Jill Usher and Kevin Wilson, Deputy Managing Directors, provide a brief overview of Kasai’s journey.

“Kasai is a global Tier 1 automotive interior and exterior trim manufacturer, offering comprehensive services across the industry. Originally founded in 1991 as a joint venture between Kasai and Reydel Ltd, our operations commenced under the trading name R-TEK in the UK. Our initial focus was on supplying esteemed clients such as Honda and Nissan, and we later expanded to serve Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). In 2012, we underwent a significant transition, becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Kasai Kogyo Co. Ltd., headquartered in Japan. To align with our group’s corporate identity, in 2016, we embraced a name change, rebranding ourselves as Kasai UK. This evolution has allowed us to strengthen our position and continue delivering exceptional solutions within the automotive industry,” they begin.

Although Kasai is currently experiencing tremendous growth, the company has faced its fair share of challenges. “The pandemic and the subsequent semi-conductor shortages had a significant impact on our volumes and profitability in 2020 and 2021. To ensure the sustainability of the business during these challenging times, we had to make difficult decisions and right-size our operations. This involved transitioning from supplying approximately 500,000 vehicles’ worth of products to less than 300,000. To address this situation and drive positive change, we established a Business Innovation Team (BIT). This team brought together individuals from various functions and departments, forming a cross-functional matrix. Leveraging their diverse skills and expertise, the BIT worked towards identifying major efficiency improvement ideas. They collaborated with teams across the plant, engaging with employees at all levels to bring these ideas to fruition. Through the collective efforts of BIT and the wider workforce, we successfully transformed the outlook of the business, positioning it in a more stable position by 2022.

“We are a leading interior system supplier, engaging in a comprehensive range of processes that span planning, development, design, experimentation, quality assurance, and production. Our UK operation specializes in the manufacturing of a diverse range of interior components, including interior door trim, body side trim, and hard luggage trim for renowned manufacturers such as Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK) and JLR. With a robust infrastructure comprising 25 injection and back injection molding machines ranging from 250-to-2000 tons, as well as expertise in vacuum forming, sewing, wrapping, and assembly, we ensure the efficient and high-quality execution of our manufacturing processes. Furthermore, our adherence to industry standards is demonstrated by our accreditations for IATF16949 and ISO14001, underscoring our commitment to excellence and environmental management.”

Throughout the years, Kasai has undertaken numerous significant projects in collaboration with important clients. One notable ongoing project highlighted by Jill and Kevin is Kasai’s partnership with Energy Gain UK to install solar panels. “Despite limited investment opportunities and rising utility costs, we recognized the importance of long-term sustainability for our business. While government grants were unavailable, we remained committed to our sustainability goals. The installation of solar panels emerged as a viable option, offering multiple benefits such as reducing our annual energy consumption from the grid by approximately 15 percent and achieving a faster return on investment. Moreover, this initiative allowed us to significantly reduce our CO2 emissions by over 240 tons per year. To implement this project, we partnered with Energy Gain UK. With the necessary planning permissions secured, the collaboration between Energy Gain UK and Kasai proved fruitful, resulting in a seamless and expedited installation process. In early October 2023, our solar panel system went live, marking a significant step towards our sustainability objectives.”

For over 30 years, Kasai has been a trusted supplier to NMUK in Washington, UK. This collaboration exemplifies the company’s robust presence and esteemed reputation in the automotive industry. “Since the beginning of our production in the region, we have provided NMUK with a wide range of vehicle components, including door trims, bodyside, and hard luggage trims. Our collaboration began with supplying the original Primera, Micra, and Almera models and has extended to include the Note, Juke, Qashqai, and their first electric vehicle called Leaf, along with Infiniti Q30. Today, we continue to supply these products for the latest generation Leaf, Juke, and Qashqai models. Moreover, we are actively involved in quoting and securing nominations for future electric vehicles as part of Nissan’s EV360Zero strategy. Our longstanding partnership with NMUK and our dedication to staying at the forefront of electric vehicle technology position us as a key player in supporting Nissan’s vision for sustainable mobility.”

In closing, Jill along with Kevin and Yuki Miyauchi, Managing Director express Kasai’s hopes and aspirations for the future. “Currently, our supply is solely dedicated to the automotive industry, and we acknowledge that this dependence poses risks, particularly considering recent challenges such as the covid pandemic and the shortage of semi-conductor supplies. Therefore, we constantly explore possibilities for expansion into markets where we can leverage our existing technologies, technical knowledge, and skills to enhance our business position and promote growth. Our ongoing collaborations with Durham and Northumbria Universities will be pivotal in identifying new opportunities and harnessing their output for our benefit. By actively engaging with academia, we aim to tap into emerging markets and leverage their expertise to drive innovation and diversify our business portfolio.

“Further afield, our aim is to achieve stability in our automotive sales and ideally diversify into different industries. Simultaneously, we are dedicated to developing and promoting sustainability and new environmentally friendly materials. Additionally, we are committed to continuously improving the knowledge and skills of our workforce to support the advancement of our business.”

With a legacy of automotive excellence spanning decades and a track record of innovative sustainability initiatives, Kasai is well-positioned for stability and poised to explore new industry diversification.