More cars built despite closure of Opel plant in Antwerp
Belgian car manufacturing experienced an increase during the past year, despite the closure of the Opel Antwerp plant. At this stage it is unclear whether the trend will continue, and fears persist that the demand for new cars will slow down or even drop due to the weakening economy. “This will undoubtedly affect export and production figures in 2011,” the sector federation Agoria writes. It is unsure what the extent will be, says Bert Mons of the federation. But during the crisis year 2008 production came to a standstill. Government measures to maintain the demand for vehicles have been phased out almost everywhere. “Now that Belgium has also scrapped the eco bonus, it no longer applies anywhere in Europe,” says Mons. In Belgium, where one in every two cars sold is a company car, the increased levy on such cars will undoubtedly have an impact, even if it will only imply that the sale of smaller cars will be higher than that of bigger cars as they are taxed less. Belgium’s three vehicle plants saw their joint production increase significantly during the past year, with a total of 563,290 vehicles rolled out at Audi in Brussels, Volvo and Ghent and Ford in Genk by yesterday. If one considers this increase of 18% from last year, when Opel Antwerp was still in operation, one can put actual growth at 7%. Audi’s spectacular growth of 72% can be attributed to the launch of the manufacturer’s smallest model, the A1, last year. Next year’s production should be supported by the five-door version of the A1. Similarly, Volvo expects to launch the new V40 model, at a total investment of 55 million euros, in Ghent next year. Last year the manufacturer experienced an increase of 19% in production, breaking the record set in 2005. During the past year they employed 600 additional staff and 500 of the 1,000 temporary workers were put on a fixed contract. Ford plans to launch its new Mondeo in 2013, followed by the new Galaxy and S-Max the year thereafter. In Genk production is up by 3.5%. All three manufacturers export 90% of their production.