BARCELONA -- Nissans manufacturing site here has been closed for most of the past three months, but that doesnt mean nothing is happening.
Far from it. Executives are actually fighting to save the factory.
If we want to maintain production in western Europe, we have to increase productivity here, said Fumiaki Matsumoto, vice president of Nissans industrial operations in Spain.
Theres no other way we can compete for new vehicles with Nissan factories in Brazil or Turkey or Thailand, Matsumoto told Automotive News Europe during a recent visit.
The Barcelona factory is the oldest Japanese investment in the European automotive industry.
Nissan bought the plant in 1980 from Motor Iberica, which was then controlled by tractor maker Massey-Ferguson, and had success for decades using low-cost Spanish labor to produce a range of vans and 4x4s.
In 2002, the Japanese carmaker added the X-83 van project, which was both the first cross-badging plan with alliance partner Renault, as well as the first time the French carmaker had worked in a Japanese-run factory.
The van -- badged Primastar for Nissan, Trafic for Renault and Vivaro for Opel/Vauxhall -- is the top-selling product at the Barcelona factory, but demand has plummeted as credit dried up and the economy slowed across Europe.
The shift away from SUVs has also hit the other vehicles manufactured here since 2005: the Pathfinder large SUV and Navarra pickup truck.