Staff at Rover’s Oxford plant have broken with tradition to work through their usual summer holiday period in an effort to keep up with demand for the new Rover 75.
One of the two shifts normally worked at Oxford was maintained during the two-week period ended on Monday, when the plant normally shuts down. The company is hailing the development as an early benefit of the flexible working agreement it struck with the unions last December.
The holiday shift was staffed by volunteers from Rover’s 2,700-strong Oxford workforce, and from staff at Longbridge and Land Rover in Solihull. `Staff were given two months notice to move their holidays, as agreed with the unions. No bonuses were paid. Everyone who worked the shift did so voluntarily,’ a Rover spokeswoman said.
Oxford’s other traditional holiday shutdowns occur at Christmas and Easter. `There are no plans as yet to work these holidays, but if this level of demand continues we might have to consider it,’ she added.
Rover’s parent company, BMW, has also announced that its Munich and Regensburg plants in Germany are to work through their holiday periods. `The flexible working time models pioneered by BMW, and more recently introduced at Rover, allow swift reactions to customer demand,’ the company said.
Orders for the Rover 75 broke through the 10,000 mark within two weeks of its going on sale in June. Sales figures for its first three months will not be released until the end of September, but the company believes they will be very impressive.
Oxford’s two shifts are producing a total of around 2,000 cars per week, a figure targeted to rise to 2,700 a week by December. The plant, commissioned earlier this year, cost £290m to build and includes a new £80m paint shop, a £50m trim and final assembly area and a £75m body-in-white facility.
* Nissan’s Sunderland plant has topped the European car manufacturers productivity table for the third year running. The plant, which produced 288,838 cars last year, boosted productivity from 98 vehicles for each employee in 1997 to 105 in 1998. It clearly leads its closest rival, Volkswagen’s Navarra plant in Spain, by 29 cars per employee.
Other UK plants ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit survey include Toyota Burnaston in fifth place, Honda Swindon in 10th, and Ford Dagenhamp in 11th. Rover’s Longbridge plant dropped from 24th to joint 30th, with each employee producing only 30 cars.