vito.jpgSomewhat overshadowed by Chrysler's recent deal to bring Chery cars into the west, DaimlerChrysler's van business also has its sights set on China.

Fujian DaimlerChrysler Automotive (FJDC), formerly known as DaimlerChrysler Vans China, recently received its business license from the Fujian provincial government to build a plant that will make Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Viano and Vito vans from mid-2009.

That has caused considerable concern among workers at DaimlerChrysler's plan in Vitoria, Spain, which until now was the only facility making the Vito and the Viano, the minivan variant of the Vito.

The new Fujian plant, which represents an inversion of €200m, will produce around 40,000 vehicles a year. Although the German giant says vans made in Fujian will be exclusively destined for China's domestic market, Spanish workers feel that the Vitoria plant will ultimately be sidelined, particularly when it comes to deciding on a plant to build the successor to the Vito, a decision which MercedesBenz is due to take in 2009 or 2010.

The Vitoria plant has over 3,000 employees on its payroll, making DaimlerChrysler the largest employer in Vitoria, a city of 250,000 inhabitants. Almost 90% of the 94,000 vehicles made there in 2006 went for export.

Labour relations at the plant have often been strained although DaimlerChrysler's decision in 2003 to double the plant's surface area was seen as vote of confidence in the Spanish workers. Nevertheless, unions are current negotiating a new pay deal and DaimlerChrysler's management have been dropping not-so-subtle hints that the outcome of the pay talks could influence decisions about the plant's long-term future.

FJDC is a joint venture founded by Fujian Motor Group, DaimlerChrysler and China Motors Corp.

Elsewhere on the automotive front:

  • China's vehicle sales and production both rose more than 20% in the first half of the year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Vehicle sales in the first six months rose 23% per cent from a year ago to 4.4m units, while production rose 22% to 4.5m units, of which 3.2m were passenger cars and 1.3 million commercial vehicles.

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