Europe: OEMs continue to invest01 February 2018 | Ian Henry
We are barely a month into 2018 and Europe’s vehicle manufacturers continue to change their production geographies, investing in some factories and adjusting model allocations between others as they seek to optimise their assets.
Toyota will invest 300m euros in its French plant to raise capacity to 300,000 to make the Yaris replacement and other variants on the new TNGA small platform on which the Yaris will be made. Fiat is understood to be considering revising model allocations between Italy and Poland; it had been thought that a small SUV, effectively a Punto replacement, would be made in Poland with both Fiat and Jeep formats. Reports now suggest these models will be made in Italy at the Pomigliano d ’Arco plant in the south of the country.
At PSA major change is under way, both in its own plants, and at its newly acquired Opel/Vauxhall factories. It is adding a third shift at its small van plant in Portugal owing to high capacity utilisation in Vigo, the Portuguese plant being a flexi or supplementary plant for Vigo; and PSA is also adding a shift in its larger van plant in northern France.
Meanwhile at the former Opel/Vauxhall plants, change is coming, although exactly what form this will take remains to be seen. Last year PSA confirmed it would make a new large SUV at Eisenach based on PSA’s EMP2 platform, rather than the small Mokka which was due to be transferred from Zaragosa. But elsewhere, PSA is not so sure – Opel unions have become restive, fearing job cuts at Russelsheim, while inefficiencies at Zaragosa have led to a rethink regarding investment there. In the near future, it may not be surprising to see Opels made at PSA’s Madrid plant where it has plenty of capacity – putting some Opel production there would allow PSA to reduce dependency on Zaragosa which some thought could have become a super-plant, making over 550,000 units a year. And this is without considering what will happen with the Vauxhall plants in the UK where there are unlikely to be any definite decisions until the shape of the final Brexit deal becomes clear.
With uncertainty surrounding the Opel/Vauxhall plants, a similar situation could be developing at Ford. Its European model-line-up is expected to be cut this year, with some reports suggesting that the Mondeo could be culled entirely – in the US, the Fusion (with which the Mondeo shares a platform) is expected not to be renewed, so the economics of retaining Mondeo as a Europe only model in a highly competitive and contracting segment will likely be called into question.
In the UK, Toyota is still expected to confirm a new model for its UK plant later this year, but Jaguar Land Rover has announced production cutbacks in Halewood and Castle Bromwich; at Halewood the cutbacks are not entirely surprising as the Evoque is about see a switch to a new model, so a decline this year was always on the cards. More worryingly are the disappointing sales of Jaguar sedans; new SUVs cannot come quickly enough for Jaguar.
Of one thing we can be sure, Europe’s car factories will see more changes in what they make this year; perfect manufacturing arrangement remain as elusive as ever.