UUSIKAUPUNKI, Finland - Contract car assembler Valmet will double its planned production of Porsche Boxsters to meet high demand.
Valmet started building the Boxster at its Uusikaupunki plant on the Baltic coast in September 1997 to supplement the output of Porsche's plant in Zuffenhausen, Germany.
The plan was to build 5,000 Boxsters here annually by 1998. That figure has doubled to 10,000 in 1998. It could be more if US sales in the next six months justify it.
Valmet Porsches are indistinguishable from the German Porsches, according to Porsche's own manufacturing engineers in Zuffenhausen.
In one regard they are superior, because Valmet has a new waterborne paint system, which is more advanced than Porsche's paint technology.
In late 1996 Porsche considered several potential partners for increasing output. It considered VW plants in Germany, the Czech Republic and Mexico and the Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina.
Valmet won the race.
The company had a reputation for efficiency, and it had spare capacity because its contract to build Opel Calibras had just ended. Porsche invested $12 million in tooling for Valmet.
Valmet demonstrated its efficiency by moving the contract from the proposal stage to commercial production in eight months.
Valmet officials credit tooling suppliers for the speedy changeover.
'We have good relations with tooling makers,' says Hannu Berger, Valmet's vice president of product development. 'That's very important in getting a project up on its legs.'
Valmet gives the most credit to ABB Finland, the local subsidiary of the Swedish tooling firm.
Valmet also builds Saab cabriolets and the EuroSamara for Russia's AutoVAZ.
Valmet, Finland's only carmaker, has a Japanese twist.
In 1983, Valmet management retained consultant Hachime Yamashima, a former Toyota Motor Co. executive and now a management professor at Japan's Kyoto University.
For three years, Yamashima molded Valmet into Toyota's image. He reorganized the work force into teams, set up just-in-time delivery systems, cut waste, and taught line managers to look for quality problems in the smallest places.