Citroen C4 Cactus brings Madrid factory back to life

The C4 Cactus will be a template for future C-line models from Citroen.
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MADRID, Spain -- PSA's Villaverde factory in Madrid, which faced closure two years ago, now has a brighter future thanks to the C4 Cactus. Citroen started building the new compact hatchback at the plant at the end of April. Starting next year the C4 Cactus will be the only model the plant makes.

The Spanish factory used to produce the Peugeot 207 hatchback and its variants. But it lost this business two years ago when the small car was replaced by the 208, which is assembled in France and Slovakia. In 2012 the Madrid plant employed 2,700 people. Today that number is 1,600, with 200 hired this year to support the start of C4 Cactus production.

Assembly of the new model will increase until it reaches its target of 380 units a day in July. Operating at that level, the factory will produce nearly 85,000 Cactus units a year, assuming 220 production days a year. This would still be less than half of the plant's 200,000 units of annual installed capacity.

Plant director Jose Carlos Robredo Bertol declined to disclose production targets because “the output will depend on the success of the model.” Order books for the C4 Cactus have only just opened in some European countries, such as France and Italy. “Now we are working to provide European dealers with cars, then we will work on customers’ orders,” he said during a visit of the plant.

According to Bertol, the plant is ready to adapt quickly to the demands of the marketplace. It would take three months to add a third shift, he told Automotive News Europe. If necessary, a fourth shift could be added at weekends. To reach maximum output of 200,000 units per year a further 1,800 people would be needed.

Small platform

Despite being a compact car, the Citroen C4 Cactus is underpinned by the PSA group's PF1 subcompact platform. Citroen says the small platform helps to keep the model light and makes it more fuel efficient. It is the same platform that underpins many other group models, including the C3, DS3 and Peugeot 207, 208 and 2008.

The factory only produces PF1-based models and last year went on short time working. The plant was closed for 70 days and produced around 50,000 units of the outgoing Peugeot 207 subcompact.

Currently, the Peugeot 207 Plus hatchback and 207 CC convertible are assembled on the same line as the new Citroen C4 Cactus but these models will be discontinued at end of June and in 2015, respectively.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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