Finnish manufacturer Valmet struggles

Uusikaupunki. The automobile manufacturer Valmet has a difficult year ahead of it.

A drop in orders has forced Valmet to place 759 of its 1,600 employees on leave for an indefinite period. The remaining staff will be taking a break of between seven and 11 days.

Last week production of the Saab 9-3 convertible finished. In 2002 Valmet manufactured 20,870 units of the convertible and the five-door version of the model, accounting for half of its total capacity of 41,000 vehicles.

The Finnish company lost the contract for the successor to the Saab convertible to Magna Steyr and there seems to be nothing to replace it.

Production of the Porsche Boxster is also slowing down. Last year Valmet built 100 units of the sports car per day. Since the beginning of 2003 daily production has fallen to 70 cars.

Valmet boss Tapio Kuisma is optimistic that he will find work, at least for some of the Valmet employees. Kuisma told Automobilwoche that certain OEMs have shown interest in contracting with another automobile manufacturer besides Magna Steyr and Karmann.

He believes that the Porsche production at Valmet will increase again within the next two to three years. The Finnish company's contract with the sports car manufacturer will run out in 2008.

Valmet is currently trying to obtain more development contracts although automobile manufacturing will remain the main focus. Mauri Partanen, employees' representative at Valmet, shares Kuisma's careful but optimistic view. "We believe that this period of low demand will not last forever," the employee spokesman said.

It is not clear yet how shareholder ThyssenKrupp Automotive (TKA) will react to Valmet's current problems. TKA bought 10 percent of Valmet-shares in 2001. The corporation from Bochum, Germany, might take the option of taking over the remaining 90 percent by the end of 2003. Currently the shares are owned by the Finnish company Metso.

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