The Economist Intelligence Unit's latest European plant efficiency rankings show the value that Nissan can bring to Renault.
For the third straight year, Nissan's plant in Sunderland, in northeast England, is rated the most productive in Europe. The 4,141 employees at Sunderland made an average of 105 cars each during 1998. Renault's best plant - in Douai, France - ranked seventh in Europe, with an average of 68 vehicles per employee last year.
Sunderland was 28 percent more efficient than the joint second-place factories: Volkswagen's plant in Navarra, Spain, and General Motors' plant in Eisenach, Germany.
What is significant is that the Sunderland plant achieves its level with innovative, but relatively low-tech processes. It is a pure example of continuous improvement in action. Manufacturing problems are solved one at a time. Hundreds of piecemeal fixes add up to unsurpassed productivity.
The specific solutions at Sunderland were found and implemented by local managers and employees. But the management concept that made them possible came from Nissan in Japan. It is the kind of value that Renault can harvest from Nissan - and must.
Whatever Nissan's shortcomings, it has shown that it can turn out top-quality cars more efficiently than anyone else in Europe. For Renault, that is worth the price of admission.