Karmann considering vehicle production in USA

Osnarbrack, Germany. Karmann boss Bernd Lieberoth-Leden wants to expand his North America business to compensate for European profit and volume problems.

The independent vehicle manufacturer and convertible specialist from Westphalia is currently preparing a new plant in Plymouth, Michigan.

The pre-series production of a Karmann-developed folding top for the new Pontiac G6 convertible will start this summer.

The new plant's have two production lines, where 250 employees will manufacture up to 30,000 roofs a year, cost the family business millions, somewhere in the "high two-digit region." The 10-acre site and building cost Karmann Manufacturing LLC about $15 million.

For Lieberoth-Leden, the General Motors contract is only the beginning. A roof project with Chrysler -- reportedly the successor to the Chrysler Sebring -- should also be built in Plymouth.

The Karmann boss says that complete-vehicle production in the United States is also possible. "We are open to all kinds of suggestions," he said.

But the company cannot afford to build a new paint shop.

"Responsibilities would need to distributed differently there," Lieberoth-Leden said.

Talks with the Karmann works council about jobs in German locations are progressing.

Lieberoth-Leden said: "We currently employ more people than we need compared with the lifecycle of the cars we build." But he believes that a solution will be found soon.

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