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Old 06-18-2003, 08:28   #1 (permalink)
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North America :Big 3 build cars in less time

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Detroit automakers gain on Japanese rivals, but Nissan, Toyota, Honda remain at top

By Mark Truby / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Detroit's automakers are expected to gain ground on front-running Japanese rivals in an annual study of North American manufacturing productivity to be released today.

Industry sources said DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. will show a reduction in the average time they take to build cars and trucks.

Chrysler is expected to show the largest year-over-year productivity gain -- about 8 percent -- in the widely followed Harbour Report.

Despite the gains, Chrysler will remain behind cross-town rivals GM and Ford. GM will show a gain of 7 to 8 percent, while Ford's labor productivity is expected to advance by 2 percent.

The study by Troy-based Harbour and Associates Inc. determines the average labor hours it takes to assemble a car and truck by dividing the number of vehicles produced at a plant by the number of hours put in by every plant employee, from the top managers to the janitorial staff.

The report once again will crown the Japanese trio of Nissan Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. as North America's most productive automakers, according to people briefed on the report. Nissan has topped the Harbour Report for the past eight years.

Mitsubishi Motors America Inc.'s Normal, Ill., plant that produces the Eclipse and Galant, along with Chrysler and Dodge coupes, is also expected to finish near the top of the survey.

Japanese automakers, however, are expected to lose ground in some areas as they expand their manufacturing footprint in North America. Last year, all three companies posted modest declines in labor productivity.

"As the transplants build more vehicles with more varieties, there is some penalty to be paid for that in productivity," said Alan Baum, an industry analyst with The Planning Edge in Farmington Hills.

Nissan's car and truck plant in Smyrna, Tenn., is expected to top all other North American plants for productivity. GM's Oshawa, Ontario, factory, which builds the Chevy Impala and Monte Carlo mid-size cars, and Ford's car plants in Atlanta and Chicago that build the Ford Taurus, are also expected to post high productivity numbers.

How they fared
Labor hours per vehicle required for assembly, stamping, powertrain:

Automaker labor hours

Nissan: 29.00

Honda: 31.18

Toyota: 31.63

GM: 39.34

Ford: 40.88

DaimlerChrysler: 44.28

Source: The Harbour Report North America 2002
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