BERLIN - The secret to the success of the NedCar manufacturing joint venture is a little mathematics, according to Chris DeWulf, NedCar president. In DeWulf's view, 1+1=3.
NedCar has worked not because it simply married the Mitsubishi and Volvo manufacturing cultures, but because it formed a unique culture of its own, a kind of third way, said DeWulf in a speech at the Automotive News Europe Congress here.
NedCar makes the Volvo S40 and V40, the Mitsubishi Carisma and the Mitsubishi Space Star.
NedCar, based in Born, Netherlands, began operations in 1995 with three stakeholders: the government of the Netherlands, Mitsubishi and Volvo. It has since become a 50-50 Volvo-Mitsubishi joint venture.
Each party had something to gain from the venture. Volvo would learn Mitsubishi's lean production techniques, while Mitsubishi would learn Volvo's order-to-production techniques. For its part in the bargain, the Netherlands would gain jobs it had lost through the closure of coal mines and keep a stake in the automobile industry.
DeWulf compared the joint venture with a courtship. Volvo and Mitsubishi had to 'date' each other for a period in order to get to know each other's cultures.
NedCar has been able to play a role in that process and act as a conduit between Volvo and Mitsubishi, and also to the outside world, including suppliers, DeWulf said.
'It's important that there is a constant communication between the partners to the people on the shop floor,' he said.
NedCar splits its 230,000-unit annual capacity: 90,000 annually for the two Volvo products and 90,000 for the Carisma with an extra 50,000 for the Space Star.
Because it makes vehicles for two different companies, NedCar knows the meaning of flexibility, DeWulf said. Such flexibility may be useful in coming days and weeks because the ground beneath NedCar has shifted.
Ford has bought Volvo, meaning NedCar becomes one of five plants in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands including NedCar, Volvo's factory in Ghent, Belgium, and Ford factories in Genk, Belgium, and Cologne and Saarlouis, Germany.
DeWulf said Ford's ownership of Volvo obviously changes the equation for NedCar, though he does not know exactly how yet. But DeWulf said NedCar will be ready for whatever comes.
'We've learned during the past four or five years to be an operation that deals with the unexpected,' he said.
Name: Chris DeWulf
Title: President and chief executive,
Netherlands Car BV (NedCar)
Theme: Openness and flexibility needed to run a manufacturing joint venture
Quote: 'You need to balance the interests of the customer, employees, shareholders and society. If you unbalance one of these, you lose the battle in the long run'