Renault gives new electric life to Spanish factories
The French auto maker’s plan to extend production at two plants at Valladolid brings good news for its 10,000 employees.Valladolid – French auto maker Renault is to extend the life of its two plants at Valladolid in northern Spain, with the production there of two new car models, one of them electric, and motors, the firm said on Tuesday.
"Renault confirms that we will produce at Valladolid a small electric car in 2011, an ecological motor in 2012, and a traditional vehicle from 2013," Renault's director in Spain, Jean-Pierre Laurent, told a news conference attended by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The plan will see the company invest EUR 500 million though 2013, the industry ministry said.
Renault would not confirm the figure, saying only that about 20 percent of the total investment would be comprised of public money.
The company employs around 10,000 people in Spain, Europe's third-largest automaker, mostly at its four factories in the country.
It has an assembly plant in Valladolid -- which had been slated to close in 2012 -- as well as a motor factory which together employ around 5,000 people directly and another 30,000 indirectly.
The assembly plant at Valladolid will now produce 100,000 vehicles per year in 2013, including 20,000 electric cars, said Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian.
"This secures the future of the Valladolid plant for the next 10 years," he said, adding "this is the first announcement of the mass production of an electric car in Europe."
Renault was more prudent, saying it would guarantee work at the plant for another five years.
The announcement comes at a time when several other large automakers in the country have already taken measures to cut their workforces due to the global economic slowdown, adding to Spain's unemployment rate of 18 percent, the highest in the European Union.
Opel's new owners Magna International want to slash about 1,300 jobs at a plant in Zaragoza in eastern Spain. Japan's Nissan and US group Ford have also announced job cuts in Spain.
"Today is a great day for the auto industry, for Valladolid, the region, and above all for workers," said Zapatero, adding the announcement showed that Spain had a competitive automaking sector.
"We have qualified workers and companies have confidence in Spain," he said.
Renault said it decided to produce the models at Valladolid instead of at plants in other nations after reaching an agreement with unions over work conditions.
Laurent said Renault's chief operating officer Patrick Pelata set two conditions for assigning the production of new models to the plant: that the factory be "competitive" and that "Spain be a country with a global plan to support electric cars".
Earlier this month France unveiled plans to invest EUR 1.5 billion on infrastructure for the two million electric and hybrid cars it wants on the road by 2020.
Spain has so far introduced just some minor amounts of aid to support electric cars but it is planning a wider plan for the entire sector.
Renault has predicted that by 2020 electric cars will make up more than 10 percent of the market and hopes to present its electric cars by 2011 and have them ready for the market the following year.
In addition to its two plants at Valladolid, the company has a factory in the nearby town of Palencia and a fourth factory in the southern city of Sevilla.
The auto manufacturing sector accounts for about six of Spain's economic output and 15 percent of exports.
AFP / Expatica