UDDEVALLA, Sweden - Volvo Car Corp. and TWR Group say they have no firm plans to add a third model at their AutoNova plant here to join Volvo's C70 coupe and convertible.
However, Volvo executives are thinking about another vehicle now that most of the plant's production problems seem to have been solved.
'The target group for us is more than families,' said Hans-Olov Olsson, senior vice president of Volvo Car Corp. 'We are expanding both up and down' in price range. 'But we have no plans to put anything new in there just yet.'
AutoNova's output of Volvo C70 coupes and convertibles is expected to reach 96 a day, or 20,000 a year, in September, up from the current 65 a day. That will be six months behind schedule and nearly 18 months after coupe production started. The plant can produce about 40,000 cars a year.
AutoNova has built about 6,500 C70s to date. Production of convertibles started in November 1997. Peder Elisson, senior vice president of AutoNova, said coupes will make up 85 percent of total production.
TWR and Volvo formed their joint venture in 1995 to manufacture niche vehicles. TWR of London designs and engineers vehicles for a number of manufacturers, including General Motors and Jaguar Cars Ltd. TWR owns 51 percent of the Swedish venture.
Elisson said the link had its origins in the aborted merger between Volvo and Renault SA. Volvo wanted to broaden its product range, and the Renault option disappeared.
The $224 million project with TWR resulted in the design and production of the C70, a more exciting vehicle than Volvo had been known for until then. The convertible is Volvo's first in 40 years.
But the C70 has started slowly. AutoNova produced only 99 in nine months last year.
'We started this plant with two new cars, and the only experience workers in this region had was in final assembly,' Elisson said. 'They had no body and paint shop experience.'
Volvo had operated the facility as a final assembly plant for six years before shutting it down in 1993.
All final assembly at the plant is done manually by workers in teams. The platform of the car is built at 16 stations, each with four or five team members. The platform includes the engine, transmission and all electrical parts. Another 32 stations, with three team members each, install the interiors.
The plant has only 16 robots, 14 of them used for welding in the body shop. The only thing done outside the plant is rust-protection coating, which is applied at the Volvo plant in Gothenburg.
In the paint room, paint is sprayed manually. The paint room has more defects than other operations at the plant, said Elisson. The body and paint shops operate two shifts. Final assembly has one shift. AutoNova has 1,000 employees.
Since the C70 is built only to customer orders, AutoNova negotiated a unique contract with its workers. It allows the plant to operate on 10-hour shifts during peak order times and six-hour shifts during slack times. Workers are paid for eight hours during each period.
'This plant is flexible,' Elisson said. 'We can produce anything.'
He said four or five different models could be produced simultaneously. He declined to say whether cars other than Volvos might be produced there.