TREMERY, France - PSA/Peugeot-Citroen has introduced weekend shifts for the first time in the assembly shop of its giant engine plant here. The move is in response to surging demand for the company's common-rail direct-injection diesel engine.
Saturday and Sunday shifts began at the end of September. The weekend shifts will continue at least until a second assembly line opens next year, said assembly team manager Yannig Gaultier.
If demand for the engine continues to rise, weekend assembly will be maintained. The engine powers Peugeot's 206, 306 and 406, and the equivalent Citroen models.
The highly automated engine machining division at Tremery has already started weekend working. The division is supplied with blocks and heads by the PSA foundries in Mulhouse and Sochaux.
Each of the two weekend assembly line shifts runs from 5am-4pm. Each shift involves 35 staff producing 2,300 finished engines.
Tremery was established in 1979 over a 119-hectare site. The plant represents a total investment of nearly $2 billion (euro 1.88 billion). Tremery now employs more than 3,200 people, including 300 taken on so far this year. Another 600 temporary staff are being sought.
Tremery is PSA's biggest engine plant. It currently produces 6,100 gasoline and diesel engines a day. It is also claimed to be the biggest diesel plant in the world. Hdi (High-pressure Direct injection) engine production will rise to 3,000 a day next year, Gaultier said. Production of a new 2.2-liter Hdi engine, to be first seen in the Peugeot 607, also will begin next year.
PSA is determined to play a major role in the diesel boom in mainland Europe, said Martin Alloiteau, director of Peugeot international communications.
'Demand for diesel is exploding in Germany,' Alloiteau said. 'Diesel will account for nearly 27 percent of car sales in Europe this year. Only the UK has a falling demand for diesel, because of environmental misinformation and high fuel costs.'
The popularity of common-rail direct-injection diesel engines has fueled this growth. Diesel is pumped at high pressure into a metal tube (the common rail) which feeds computer controlled fuel injectors. This adjusts the flow of fuel for maximum performance and economy.
The technology allows greater control over fuel delivery and injection timing, and is considered key to making diesels clean enough to pass new emissions regulations.
Alloiteau admitted that PSA had lost heavily against the VW group in recent years. In 1994 the French concern had 25.2 percent of the European diesel market. Last year it had 18.5 percent. Meanwhile, the VW group share rose from 18.8 percent to 27.2 percent over the same period.
Alloiteau said: 'We are doing everything we can to regain leadership of the diesel market as soon as possible.'