Long an engine of the economy, car production decreased slightly in the Czech Republic in 2013 when 1.13 million vehicles rolled off the production line. But this year the industry is revving up again, as reflected in the fact that one of the country’s big three producers, TPCA – a joint operation of Japan’s Toyota and the French company Peugeot-Citroen – has been taking on more workers as it introduces new models.
The TPCA plant in the central Bohemian town of Kolín peaked in 2009, when it produced nearly a third of a million cars and saw revenues of CZK 51.8 billion.
After that, however, the factory had some lean years. Shifts were cut back, layoffs were made and wages barely rose. Indeed, there had been speculation that the factory – which was founded in 2002 – could close.
Now, Mladá fronta Dnes reports, one of the Czech Republic’s big three automobile makers (alongside Škoda Auto in Mladá Boleslav and Hyundai in north Moravia) is hiring again; from October, TPCA executive vice president Patrice Le Guyader told the newspaper, it plans to go to three shifts a day and to increase working days from four to five.
The reason is that after nine years of producing the same three small vehicles, the TPCA plant has begun making new generations of the Toyota Aygo and the Citroen C1 and replaced the Peugeot 107 with the Peugeot 108.
The new city-friendly vehicles are a few centimetres bigger than their predecessors, differ from each other more and deliver more trunk space. Customers are also being offered a greater range of combinations of colours and extras.
Peugeot-Citroen executive vice president Jean-Christophe Quemard told Mladá fronta Dnes that one reason they had made the new models slightly bigger was in order to appeal to customers – such as families and other groups – outside the usual small car market of young people and seniors.
Between the start of the year and October the factory is taking on around 7,000 workers. Most have been hired through employment agencies and many were previously laid off by TPCA when production was scaled back.
A spokesperson for a car workers trade union told Mladá fronta Dnes he hoped such rehires would eventually get the chance to become permanent employees again.
A successful restart at TPCA could improve overall production figures for the Czech car industry, which this year is heading for an all-time record, thanks to a rise in production at Škoda Auto.
However, the head of the Czech Automotive Industry Association, Antonín Šípek, said TPCA’s increased production was more likely to have an impact on overall figures in 2015.