COVENTRY, UK - Automotive unions at the PSA manufacturing plant where the Peugeot 206 commences production in September have signed a new, two-year contract. The deal, which is operative from the end of this year, paves the way for expansion at the Ryton factory on the outskirts of Coventry.
Increased production could, in time, include a Citroen model sharing the same platform.
'The deal is the most far-reaching in UK car manufacturing,' said Brian Llewellyn, Peugeot public affairs director.
'Instead of signing at this early stage, the unions could have waited until the current agreement was due to run out at the end of this year and then proposed suggestions which would have involved lengthy negotiations.
'But we set out the options for significant expansion, and they were very enthusiastic about increasing capacity at Ryton. This means we are guaranteed dispute-free production until the end of 2000.'
Ryton Managing Director Dick Parham was keen to clear the way ahead for a third shift, Llewellyn said.
The plant's current capacity is 600 units a day. It employs 3,000 on two shifts covering Monday through Thursday. A third shift over the Friday-to-Sunday period would increase capacity to 1,000 units and add 1,000 jobs, Llewellyn said.
'The beauty of Ryton is that it is very flexible,' Llewellyn said. 'It is a huge plant built like an aircraft hangar with lots of space.
'We have robots in place for greater production, and we have recently extended the body-in-white area. Now that we have a new, long-term working agreement with the unions, it will be relatively simple and inexpensive to build up capacity to produce whatever models are required.'
PSA Chairman Jean-Martin Folz said recently that a new Citroen model would be based on the 206 platform and would share at least 60 percent of its components with the 206. Folz said it was 'very likely' that Ryton would build a Citroen model, though before 2000.
'We would welcome any initiative which gave us added commercial success in the UK,' said Marc Raven, public affairs director, Citroen UK, 'and a Citroen made in the UK would be very good for us.'
Citroen has a largely forgotten UK assembly history.
Between 1926 and 1965, Citroen built a total of 28,800 of the Traction Avant, DS, 2CV and various light commercial vehicles at Slough, west of London.