Rainer Thieme, chairman of the management board at Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, recently talked with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Edmund Chew about Kar-mann's prospects.
What is the growth potential for Karmann's market?
The trend toward more individual cars will strengthen. If Karmann's core market is the production of vehicles with an annual volume of fewer than 25,000 units, then about 600,000 niche vehicles were produced last year. We expect a figure of 800,000 niche vehicles by 2004.
Will carmakers outsource more?
In today's market, a carmaker has to offer a full range of vehicles. Each niche market should be occupied. Therefore, some big carmakers are steadily outsourcing development and production of niche vehicles to suppliers like Karmann.
How do you see the market for convertibles in Western Europe developing?
We see a continuous growth potential for convertibles. For Western Europe, we expect a production increase from 230,000 open cars in 1999 to roughly 275,000 by 2004. The market for retractable hard tops will grow considerably.
What are other main niches for Karmann?
The manufacturing of complete vehicles is our most important activity.
Would Karmann consider car production under its own brand?
We have been tempted to produce cars under our own name. But we do not have the financial means to establish a distribution network. To create our own brand would be dangerous because we would become a competitor instead of a partner with our customers.