DOUGLAS A. BOLDUC

Three bad days for European car plants -- and more to come

Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.
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What do June 25, July 26 and Oct. 25 have in common? They are all days in which a European plant stopped vehicle production this year. The plants were victims of the region's chronic overcapacity, which could silence nearly 20 more factories in the years to come.

The final Citroen C3 rolled off the line at PSA/Peugeot-Citroen's factory in Aulnay, France, today. Ford stopped making the Transit at its plant in Southampton, England, in late July. Volvo ceased output of the C70 in Udevalla, Sweden, in late June. The C3 and Transit move to other plants while Volvo has ceased production of the C70.

Automakers have stopped car output at five European plants since 2009. The other victims were Opel's plant in Antwerp, Belgium (2010), and Fiat's Termini Imerese factory in Sicily (2011).

Ford's factory in Genk, Belgium, and Opel's plant in Bochum, Germany, are schedule to stop car production next year. Meanwhile, Saab's recently dormant factory in Trollhaettan is active again, but its long-term chances of survival are bleak given Europe's massive overcapacity.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said last month that about 10 factories in Europe need to be closed to fix the problem.

Analysts at IHS Automotive believe the number is even higher.

The consultancy estimates that automakers' factories in Europe, including Russia, have capacity to produce 26 million cars a year, but they only need about 19 million to meet current customer demand.

That's a surplus of about 7 million vehicles.

To bring capacity in line with demand would require automakers to stop the lines at 18 European plants the size of Aulnay.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com.

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