FRENCH AND GERMAN carmakers cut short vacations to produce cars in August, and the auto industry set a new production record.
BMW, Renault and two GM factories altered their traditional holidays to keep up with demand.
A plant-by-plant roundup by Automotive News Europe showed no one working less than normal in August. Fiat production was down from last year, when it was working overtime to meet demand caused by Italian incentives.
Carmakers built an estimated 530,000 units in August, according to Marketing Systems. The previous August record was 505,000 in 1995.
The research company estimated that German output was 11.5 percent higher than last August and that French production was 77.7 percent higher.
'Plant managers want to cut waiting lists for particular models, but they will not want to boost all production,' said analyst Nigel Griffith at Standard & Poor's DRI. 'We all expect 1998 sales to be lower than the year-to-date production figures would suggest, so a slowdown is likely later in the year.'
BMW canceled its usual three-week shutdown at three plants to reduce the eight-week delivery time for its new 3 series. Also, BMW added the 3 series to its Dingolfing, Germany, plant for the first time. Dingolfing, which makes the 5, 7 and 8 series, stayed open through August, along with the Munich and Regensburg plants.
Workers at Renault's six French plants had three weeks' vacation instead of four as the company pushed to achieve its target of two million car sales this year. Renault sold a record 1.83 million cars last year. In the first half of this year it produced 1.13 million cars, up about 20 percent from 947,955 in the same period in 1997.
In July, Renault captured a record 12.2 percent share of the west European market, with 153,200 registrations, up 13.6 percent.
Most GM plants closed for three weeks in August, but Eisenach, Germany, and Ellesmere Port, UK, closed for just one week to help reduce the three- to four-week delivery wait for the new Astra.
GM said it may drop the idea of an annual summer holiday. 'We need to be able to deal with things like reducing waiting lists and other customer requirements,' said a GM spokesman.
Other makers stuck to their normal summer schedules.
Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen and Rolls-Royce worked. They only stop working for Christmas.
Ford closed the last week of July and first two weeks of August in the UK, and the last two weeks of July and first week of August on the continent.
Fiat closed all nine Italian plants during August.
Honda closed Swindon, UK, the last week of July and first week of August.
Nissan closed Sunderland, UK, the first two weeks of August.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen closed all its French factories for three weeks in August.
Porsche closed Stuttgart for three weeks in August.
Rover closed its three UK factories for the first two weeks in August.
Toyota closed Burnaston, UK, for the first two weeks in August.
Volvo closed its Gothenburg, Sweden, plant for three weeks in July and Ghent in Belgium for the second two weeks of July and first week of August.