Nissan warned trade unions at its Barcelona plant that the factory's future is at risk unless work rules change and productivity improves.
The Barcelona plant "is not competitive in terms of productivity, flexibility and salary costs," said Teruo Takebe, managing director of Nissan Motor Iberica SA, the subsidiary that operates the plant.
Nissan plans to invest E400 million in NMI, but that "doesn't mean that the future of the company is assured," Takebe added.
Nissan plans to build an SUV, a pickup and a new 2.5-liter common-rail diesel engine at the plant starting in 2005.
Nissan's warning comes as emerging eastern European economies are eroding Spain's competitive advantage as an auto-manufacturing base.
Spain vs. UKComparing Nissan's two European assembly plants
|'03 units||'02 units||% chg||'03 workers|
|(*) Production of light commercial vehicles started in late 2002|
Volkswagen moved some Seat Ibiza production from Martorell, Spain, to Slovakia in 2002 after workers refused to work Sundays. PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and Toyota will open a Czech 300,000-capacity joint-venture assembly plant next spring. Hyundai will locate a E1.1-billion, 300,000-unit capacity assembly plant in Slovakia or Poland.
When Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and five others join the European Union May 1, it will intensify competition for auto production between eastern and western Europe.
NMI and union officials at the Barcelona plant are discussing a four-year plan that would boost production 25 percent while cutting production costs by 31 percent. Officials were not more specific.
Plant spokesman Emilio Fabrega said Nissan also wants to freeze plant wages, which are 15 percent to 20 percent higher than the Spanish auto industry average of E17 an hour.
The plant produces the Terrano 4x4, Almera Tino minivan and a light commercial vehicle that is sold as the Nissan Primastar, the Renault Trafic and the Opel Vivaro. Nissan says the plant built 98,024 units last year. Nissan's goal is to produce 200,000 at the plant by 2007.
Nissan parent Renault also has been trying to boost the competitiveness of its four Spanish plants.
Pierre-Alain de Smedt, Renault engineering and manufacturing boss, said: "The problem with Spanish labor is its lack of flexibility."