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Karmann expects a downturn next year, looks for more work

Osnabrueck, Germany. Karmann's managing director, Bernd Lieberoth-Leden, is preparing for difficult times.

This year the convertible specialist will have manufactured 90,000 cars (compared with 73,000 cars in 2003) and will have used its full capacity.

But starting in 2005, there will be a downturn, at least for vehicle manufacturing.

The reason? The models assembled at Karmann -- the Audi A4 convertible, Chrysler Crossfire and Mercedes-Benz CLK convertible -- are already in the middle of the second phase of their life cycle.

Contracts to build successor models are nowhere in sight.

The prospects for roofing systems are better. Karmann has contracts for engineering and manufacturing the folding top for the Nissan Micra convertible and for convertibles by General Motors and Chrysler.

There have been disappointments in Germany, though. Volkswagen gave the contract for a folding top for a new convertible four-seater based on the Golf to Karmann's competitor Webasto.

Lieberoth-Leden says the situation in the operating material division has improved since an agreement with the works council was reached.

He says that Karmann, which cut 120 jobs, is now much more competitive.

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