UDDEVALLA, Sweden - Volvo Car Corp. and TWR Group say they have no firm plans to add a third vehicle at their AutoNova plant here, to join Volvo's C70 coupe and convertible.
However, Volvo executives are thinking about another vehicle now that the plant's production problems seem largely to have been solved.
'The target group for us is more than families,' said Hans-Olov Olsson, senior vice president of Volvo Car Corp. 'We are expanding both up and down' in the product price range. 'But we have no plans to put anything new in there just yet.'
AutoNova's output of Volvo C70 coupes and convertibles is expected to reach a rate of 96 a day, or 20,000 a year, in September. This will be six months behind schedule and nearly 18 months after coupe production started. The plant has space to produce about 40,000 units a year.
AutoNova has built around 6,500 C70s to date. The convertible started in November 1997.
Peder Elisson, senior vice president of AutoNova, said coupes would make up 85 percent of total production.
TWR and Volvo formed their joint venture in 1995 to manufacture niche vehicles. TWR owns 51 percent of the venture.
Elisson said the venture had its origins in the aborted merger between Volvo and Renault. Volvo wanted to broaden its product range, and the Renault option disappeared.
The SKr1.7 billion ($224 million) project with TWR resulted in the design and production of the C70, a more exciting vehicle than Volvo had been known for until then. The convertible is Volvo's first in 40 years.
But it has been a slow start for the C70. AuoNova produced only 99 last year, over a period of about nine months.
'We started up this plant with two new cars, and the only experience workers in this region had was of final assembly,' Elisson said. 'They had no body and paint shop experience.'
Volvo had operated the facility as a final assembly plant for six years before shutting it down in 1993.
Final assembly at AutoNova, which has 1,000 full-time employees, is all done manually by small teams.
The platform of the car is built at 16 stations, each with four or five team members. The platform includes the engine, transmission and all electrical parts.
An additional 32 stations, with three team members each, install the interiors.
There are only 16 robots in the plant, 14 of them used for welding in the body shop. The only thing done outside of the plant is rust-protection coating, which is applied at the Volvo plant in Gothenburg.
The worst part of the operation is the paint room. Paint is sprayed manually, and therefore has more defects than other operations of the plant, said Elisson, 'but even that is running better than we planned.'
The body and paint shops operate two shifts. Final assembly has one shift.
Since the C70 is built only to customer orders, AutoNova negotiated a unique contract with its workers. This allows the plant to operate on 10-hour shifts during peak order times and six-hour shifts during slack times. Workers are paid for eight hours during either period.
'This plant is flexible,' Elisson said. 'We can produce anything.'
Elisson said four or five different models could be produced simultaneously. He would not say whether cars other than Volvos might be produced there, but Volvo has said it wants to expand its customer base.