AMSTERDAM -- Next year, when both the Smart ForFour and Mitsubishi Colt are in full production, the NedCar plant in Born, Netherlands, may reach its new higher annual capacity of 280,000 units.
The Mitsubishi Motors-owned plant has a planned capacity for a combined 100,000 three- and five-door Colts and 140,000 ForFours.
Production of the Smart ForFour began last month. That will be followed by the five-door Colt on
April 1 and the three-door Colt in January 2005.
Mitsubishi plans a Colt model mix of 60 percent five-door and 40 percent three-door. But NedCar also will continue to build the Mitsubishi Space Star minivan. DaimlerChrysler owns Smart and Mitsubishi is a DaimlerChrysler affiliate.
"We can't tell the time frame, but we will continue to produce a successor [to the Space Star] at NedCar," said Ulrich Walker, Mitsubishi's head of development. NedCar has an additional capacity of about 40,000 units for the Space Star or its successor.
"A combined total of 280,000 for the three models is our maximum," Walker said. Under new President Günter Butschek, NedCar has restructured its production systems.
NedCar sources say a total capacity of 300,000 units is possible if a third shift is added. The plant's top year was 1998, when it produced 240,000 cars.
The Colt and ForFour share the Mitsubishi-developed platform architecture, including the rear axle.
"The models share 60 percent of the total component value," Walker said.
The production process follows Mitsubishi principles.
"But there is some input from Smart, in Hambach [France] as well as Daimler-Chrysler," Walker said.
But body work is unique for both. The Smart ForFour body has some composite-material panels. The Colt uses steel panels.
NedCar has restructured its supply line as well. Gasoline engines are produced to Mitsubishi design standards at the joint MDC Power GmbH plant in Kölleda, Germany.
The Smart's two new three-cylinder diesel options are part of a completely new DaimlerChrysler engine family, which will be shared with the next Mercedes-Benz A class.
Johnson Controls prepares cockpit modules inside the NedCar plant for the Colt and the ForFour. Faurecia supplies both cars' seats.
Germany-based Peguform supplies front-end assemblies.
Peguform's financial problems won't disturb the production startup of the ForFour and Colt, said Andreas Renschler, CEO of Smart GmbH.
"The German car industry has guaranteed Peguform's position," he said. "We help them."
Both cars get transmissions from ZF Sachs and Getrag.