BURSA, Turkey - Annual production at Renault's Turkish plant will rise to 160,000 in 1999 from 100,000 units this year with the addition of the Megane wagon. Exports will jump from 12,000 to 70,000 cars.
Adding the Megane wagon will break the 1993 production record of 133,000 vehicles. The move also significantly transforms the Bursa plant from a provider of old models to the Turkish and Middle Eastern markets to a low-cost export base for western Europe.
The wagon is the sixth model in the Megane range following the hatchback, coupe, sedan, convertible and Scenic. It will be made only in Bursa at a rate of 60,000 units a year, with 50,000 of these exported to western Europe.
The Bursa plant also builds the sedan and hatchback versions of the Megane.
The Megane wagon was launched in Turkey in September and will be rolled out across Europe next spring to coincide with the Megane facelift.
The price in Turkey is between 4.2 and 4.7 billion lira ($13,000 to $15,000).
Jacques Chauvet, Oyak-Renault general manager, said daily production at Bursa would increase from 400 to 680 units. A second shift will be used for the first time since 1994, when there was a slump in the Turkish market. 'Next year we will be close to full production capacity of 180,000 units,' said Chauvet.
Renault invested $112 million at Bursa for the Megane wagon, with an additional $16 million for a 1.6-liter engine assembly line. The wagon shares a number of parts with the sedan, which has been produced at Bursa since last year. These include the front end, floor and powertrain.
Old Renault models continue in production at the Turkish plant, however. It is expected to produce 22,000 R12 sedan and wagon models this year, along with 28,000 R9s - still the best seller on the domestic market - and 30,000 R19s. The three-box Clio will replace the R12 and R9, which will become obsolete in 2001 when Turkey adopts Euro 2000 emissions regulations.
Renault's plant at Bursa dates back to 1971: it was the automaker's first assembly facility outside western Europe. The average assembly worker earns about $160 a month.
A substantial supply base has grown up around the Bursa plant. This includes Bertrand Faure (seats), Valeo (clutches), Bosch (brakes), Allibert (dashboards), Elf (oil) and Autoliv (seatbelts). Local content currently stands at 60 to 80 percent, depending on the model.
The plant has full manufacturing facilities, stamping, bodyshop, paint and final assembly. One line can switch between the R9, R19 and Megane and the second is devoted entirely to the R12.
Oyak-Renault is a 49-51 percent joint-venture, with Turkish conglomerate Oyak holding the minority. Oyak is held by a Turkish Army mutual fund. The plant employs 3,360.
Renault was No. 1 in the Turkish car market in the first half of 1998, with a 28 percent market share, ahead of Tofas-Fiat with 24.8 percent. The market totaled 149,000 in the first half. Total sales in Turkey in 1997 were 343,000 units. The market is expected to reach 500,000 sales in 2000.