PARIS - Renault is looking for a way to nearly double the production of its Logan low-cost family car to meet unexpectedly brisk customer demand in greater Europe, a Renault executive said.
The only plant building Logans for western, central and eastern Europe is in Pitesti, Romania, where Renault's Dacia subsidiary makes about 35 Logans an hour.
"We are envisaging stepping up production of the Logan to 60 cars an hour, or approximately 250,000 a year," the executive told Automotive News Europe.
But the big question is: Which plant will get the added production?
"It could be at Bursa (Turkey), or Novo Mesto (Slovenia)," the executive said. Without eliminating Romania from consideration, he said, "the problem is that raising capacity in Pitesti requires a very heavy investment."
He did not elaborate, but Pitesti's paint workshop is said to pose a potential bottleneck.
Renault's Bursa plant makes the three-box versions of the Megane lower-medium car and the Clio small-segment car.
It starts building the third-generation Clio next year. Renault's Novo Mesto factory is preparing to make the next-generation Twingo minicar, due on sale next year.
People in western Europe who order a Logan today have to wait until early October to get it.
"The Pitesti plant is running flat out," said Jacques Chauvet, Renault sales director for France.
Pitesti has been supplying Logans to central and eastern Europe since August 2004 and to western Europe since June.
The plant operates two shifts a day during the week plus one shift on the weekend. At that pace, it is on track to make 150,000 Logans a year.
From September 2004 through May, about 70,000 Logans were sold, three-quarters of those sales were in Romania.
In France, Renault has reportedly set itself a sales target of 5,000 Logans for this year, but it has revised up that figure since the car's launch here June 9.
"It will be more than 5,000," Chauvet said.
He declined to be more specific.
Renault does not reveal its new-car sales objectives except in very broad terms.
Former Renault CEO Louis Schweitzer, who masterminded the Logan project, envisioned the sale of about 1.2 million Logans a year by 2010, with production sites spread across the world.
Other Renault plants already making Logans are in Moscow and Casablanca, Morocco. Those plants build models for the local market only.
Renault is using the Logan to defend its core European market against low-priced competition from Korean carmakers such as Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia.
The two companies increased their market share in Europe to 3.5 percent on sales of 229,476 units in May compared with the year-ago period, according to ACEA, the European carmakers association.
Said Chauvet: "I do hope the Logan inflicts a lot of pain on the Koreans."