Overall production of light vehicles in Western Europe has risen from 15,785,827 in 1999 to 16,029,682 in 2000, but capacity utilisation has fallen from 80 percent to 79 percent, according to a study published by Automotive World’s ‘World Automotive Manufacturing’ this month. Renault was the most efficient manufacturer with an overall capacity utilisation of 91 percent, closely followed by DaimlerChrysler (89 percent), Toyota (87 percent), Volkswagen (86 percent), BMW (85 percent), and PSA (83 percent).
Ford and General Motors Europe (GME) continue to be troubled by significant overcapacity problems, with utilisation rates of 68 percent and 76 percent respectively. Both companies are attempting to address the issue by closing assembly plants. Ford will close its UK, Dagenham plant, making its factory in Cologne, Germany the sole producer of the Fiesta , while GME is to close its site in Luton, UK, which currently produces the Vectra. Honda also experienced a difficult year in 2000, as production levels fell from 114,479 in 1999, to 73,907 in 2000, taking capacity utilisation down to 49 percent. To combat the problem, the company has recently announced a new European strategy, which it hopes will take utilisation to 100 percent by fiscal 2003.
Unsurprisingly, MG Rover was the worst manufacturer in terms of overall production capacity utilisation. The company produced 187,088 units in 2000; down from 225,772 in 1999, as it switched assembly of the 75 from Cowley to Longbridge and reduced overall production levels. However, the company is looking to raise capacity utilisation from the current level of 40 percent with the introduction of face-lifted versions of the 25, 45, and 75 in summer 2001.
The overall outlook for 2001/2 is looking increasingly bleak, as the US economic slowdown continues to show signs of reaching across the Atlantic. GME and Fiat have already reduced their annual production schedule by 50,000 units and 8,000 units respectively, after forecasts showed that the market could slow more rapidly than expected. Other carmakers have been reluctant to alter their schedules, but the moves by GME and Fiat may influence them to change their minds. Volkswagen, Europe’s largest manufacturer, has said it is carefully monitoring the situation.
For more details about AW’s ‘World Automotive Manufacturing’ publication, click here.
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