Morton Thiokol's Automotive Products Division is expanding because air bags will soon become standard equipment in many vehicles.

Ken Holmgren, vice president and general manager of the automotive products division in Ogden, said the company now manufactures air bag inflators for all Mercedes Benz vehicles bought in the United States. He said the company produces about 8,000 per month.But the company is gearing up for increased production because U.S. car manufacturers plan to sell cars with standard air bags in the near future.

The air bags will be standardized equipment in some models produced by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, Holmgren said. Air bags are placed in a car's steering wheel so when a crash occurs, the bag will inflate and protect the driver.

To meet the demands of U.S. car manufacturers, Holmgren said the company is building 25,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space at its plant, located near the Ogden Municipal Airport.

"It's a very major expansion," he said.

Holmgren said the company projects it will manufacture about 20,000 inflators with modules during the next month, and gradually increase inflator production up to two million over the next two years.

He said Morton Thiokol has a contract with Chrysler to produce air bag inflators and modules because that car company will have standard air bags in some of its models later this year.

Japanese and European car companies will also purchase air bag inflators from Morton Thiokol in the future, Holmgren said.

The Automotive Products Division has 250 employees, 50 of them added since Jan. 1. Holmgren predicts the company will double its work force within two years.

Morton Thiokol has laid off some employees in its Aerospace Division, and some of those workers have been shifted over to Holmgren's plant.