Category: Test drive

Asters In The Neighbor’s Front Garden


Video: Asters In The Neighbor’s Front Garden

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Video: In the Garden with Susan - Asters 2023, January
Asters In The Neighbor’s Front Garden
Asters In The Neighbor’s Front Garden




Photo by the author and Opel

Our automotive industry, to put it mildly, at a crossroads. Meanwhile, the former ideological neighbors are doing well. Today we will talk about the automotive industry in Hungary.

At one time, the division of labor under the CMEA assigned Hungary the role of a bus supplier, mainly for the USSR. The Ikarus personified the local automobile industry, while the Lada, tractors (and tanks) were supplied in great abundance by a great neighbor.

But now the "elder brother" took up "perestroika", and in Hungary in 1988 there was a "velvet revolution." The Magyars thought hard about their future: there was only one way out - to attract foreign capital. And here he is - the Republic of Hungary has long seduced the sharks of imperialism. It was difficult to come up with the best springboard for an attack on Eastern Europe: good relations between the country and the West, developed infrastructure, banks and, most importantly, prepared legislative and legal frameworks.

In 1988, the Hungarians were allowed to import cars from abroad on their own, paying 100% of the customs duty for new ones and 50 for used ones. The next year, the fee was unexpectedly reduced to 10%, and of the amount recorded in the deed! The country has gone crazy. By 1990, the cities were clogged with “trabants” and other light rubbish. The democratic government had to again raise (slightly) the fee and limit the age of imported cars to four years. At the same time, economists have calculated how much in hard currency has sailed abroad. They gasped, but did not begin to raise duties. But we went the other way: if we can’t make cars ourselves, then let those who can do them. But here.

Six automotive companies have settled in Hungary today: General Motors (represented by Opel), Suzuki, Audi, Ford, Volvo and DAF. If the first two were discoverers, the rest appeared recently. The fruits of Hungarian economic policy are impressive. "Audi", having settled in 1995 in the city of Gyor, already in 1996 produced 150 thousand engines with a volume of 1.8 and 2 liters. Inspired by success, the Germans are seriously considering the construction of a car assembly plant. Ford has so far limited itself to the production of components in the city of Szekesfehervar. By the way, the assortment for the Hungarians is not new: they have long been manufacturing starters, instrument panels, fuse blocks, ignition coils, wiring, wipers, etc. for VAZ. Now these products have a new address - Ford assembly plants in Western Europe. As for the Volvo and recently bought by the Americans

DAF, then they are passionate about Ikarus. Last year, the first comfortable buses of the joint venture appeared on the roads of Hungary. Russia did not forget about Ikarus, having ordered 600 buses for 1997.

The best in Hungary are GM and Suzuki. Both car assembly plants appeared simultaneously in 1992. True, Suzuki, with its sweatshop technology, had to endure more than one strike by Hungarian workers. Flexible Japanese were able to find a compromise: given the post-Soviet mentality of the local proletariat, with a design capacity of the plant of 50 thousand cars, a little more than 30 thousand are produced. Half are sold in Hungary, the other is shipped to Europe. Suzuki plans in 1997 to increase the production of the outdated Swift model, attracting customers at the lowest price - 7-8 thousand dollars.

General Motors was the first to enter the Hungarian market. Back in 1980, she conducted marketing research in four social countries - Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. In 1988, GM embarked on cautious negotiations with the government of Miklos Nemeth, meanwhile eyeing the gradually dying enterprises. In 1990, they signed an agreement on creating a joint venture to assemble 15 thousand cars of the then new Opel Astra model and 230 thousand engines. The unfinished plant of the RABA company in the city of Szentgotard, on the border with Austria, was chosen as the base. They decided this way: the Hungarian share in the joint venture will be one third in the form of factory buildings, and GM will receive land ownership and contribute 153 million German marks to the authorized capital. (According to Hungarian laws, any foreigner has the right to buy land, unless it is farmland.) However, for a serious project, ownership is half the battle. The Hungarians understood that the joint venture would not work without a favorable tax climate. By a special agreement, the government for ten years (!) Exempted the new enterprise from income tax and for five years from import and export customs duties. By the way, such benefits are not for GM alone, they were granted to all foreign investors.

This is the economic policy of the state, which wants to modernize its industry as soon as possible.

By the end of 1991, an assembly plant (designed for 35 thousand cars per year) was built on an area of ​​50, 000 m2. Moreover, it turned out to be easier to demolish the slave "incomplete" and to build modern workshops out of the blue. Soon, the Americans, having invested another 340 million German marks, bought out the Hungarian share and became the full owners of the enterprise. In March 1992, the first Astra rolled off the assembly line. Two months later, the assembly shop for modern ECOTEC engines was launched. For the first year, Opel Hungaria produced 9, 400 cars with hatchback, sedan, station wagon and 20, 500 engines. In 1993 - already 13, 340 and 75, 800, respectively. The price of Astra was not small - about nine thousand dollars, but that year the Hungarians bought 8090 cars. The rest were sent to Germany. The following year, 1993, all assembled cars were already sold in Hungary. Advertising, organized service, warranty service have done their job. In addition to the "asters", the Magyars bought four thousand more "Opel" cars of other models. In 1994, the local Opel manufactured 12, 280 cars, and a total of 21, 527 cars of this brand were sold in Hungary. Every fifth of the cars purchased here is an Opel! In no other country does Opel have such a large market share. Of course, twenty thousand cars - a ridiculous amount for us, accustomed to think in the hundreds of thousands, no less. But is not this gigantomania one of the reasons for the deplorable situation in the Russian automotive industry?

Since we have touched on statistics, let’s summarize these figures: the population of Hungary is just over ten million people. In 1995, the Hungarian automobile market looked like this: Opel - 21% of sales, Suzuki - 18%, Lada - 12% (in 1996, the share of sales of the latter fell to 2%), Renault - 8%, Volkswagen - 7%, Daewoo - 7%, FIAT - 5%, others - 22%.

If the first engines and machines in Hungary were assembled entirely from imported parts, then last year the share of Hungarian components was 10%. So far, these are trifles like speakers, wipers and wires. Perhaps by 1998, Hungarian enterprises will make wheel disks, seats and trim elements.

However, it is more profitable for Americans to produce engines. As they explain, the demand for engines is less susceptible to market fluctuations, and there is always a need for other GM factories in Europe. "Astra" is produced here only for the Hungarian market, whose purchasing power is small. In 1996, the number of cars assembled fell to

11 500, but the engine output increased to 310 thousand. Demand for automobiles was undermined by the ten percent tax introduced in 1995 for all foreign companies selling goods on the territory of Hungary, and eight percent of the customs duty, because the term of privileges expired. By the way, the tightening of taxes finally turned the Hungarians away from Lada. If in 1994 VAZ sold 20 thousand cars at dumping prices (5-6 thousand dollars), then in 1996 there were only a few units: the cost is ten thousand dollars and the quality … Obviously, the Hungarian government considered the first stage of industrial recovery to be completed. It's time to pay the treasury, thereby indirectly investing in other industries. Yes, and those wishing to invest in a promising market for five years have increased - indefatigable Koreans put forward one project after another.

“Unpopular measures” coincided with a ten percent devaluation of the forint. As a result, the price of "asters" literally in a week increased by 30%. “Opel” (as, by the way, and Suzuki) responded with its measures to support sales that were swiftly rolling down. Firstly, cars began to be sold on credit. Moreover, you can borrow money in the "branded" bank "GM". Secondly, the so-called club guarantee was added to the factory warranty (a year excluding mileage and six years for the body). Each buyer of Astra for a symbolic ten dollars a year becomes a member of the club and can take advantage of free technical assistance on the road. And if the breakdown happened abroad, then the owner of "Astra" at the expense of the company will be accommodated in a hotel for the time of repair or delivered with the car home. (The companies trading in Western Europe began to provide such a service quite recently.) Plus, once a month, he receives two advertising magazines - Opel in the World and Opel in Hungary. The dealer and service network has been thoroughly strengthened. Not without the help of GM Bank, the number of outlets increased to 67, and the service station is now no further than fifty kilometers from one another.

By the beginning of 1997, GM had invested 700 million German marks in its Hungarian branch. In 1996, engine production made its first profit. But the fate of automobile production is in question. Soon the term of all benefits will end, and then, taking into account current costs, it will be cheaper to import cars from Germany. Accordingly, the transition to other models is also inappropriate. It is very likely therefore that by 1998, when Astra is out of date, only engine production will be left here. The 1.4-liter and 1.6-liter engines that are currently being produced with sixteen-valve fuel injection engines will add. The capabilities of Europe’s most modern motor production allow you to make 460 thousand engines a year - almost half the total need for Opel! Already today cars are assembled in one shift, and engines in three.

Assembly kits arrive by rail from the German city of Bochum - one train with parts and assemblies for 48 cars. The factory collects so much in one shift. Well-organized deliveries and well-organized operation of the conveyor allow dispensing with warehouses and unnecessary costs. The Germans themselves admit that the build quality of cars in Hungary is even higher than at other Opel plants. For the simple reason that the Magyars work for both fear and conscience. With an average salary in the country of $ 200 per month, a worker at Opel Hungaria receives about 500, and an engineer - more than $ 1, 000. (By the way, the cost of labor in the price of a car is 2-3%. So there is no need to talk about cheap labor.) 870 people work at the plant. All of them are residents of Szentgotard.

The management staff - 40 people - is located in the central office in Budapest. Ten people directly lead the plant, half of them are foreigners - Germans and English. The CEO is an American.

Of course, at the factory there is a thorough quality control of the assembled machines and engines. Inside the workshops there are several laboratories where a commission of ten people selectively checks the car for compliance with the requirements of its GOSTs. In one of these laboratories, the car is poured with water and they look to see if the gaskets are tight, in the other they are exposed to temperature loads (from + 50 ° to -50 °), and then they are interested in whether or not they will go. For five years there has not been a single case of rejection.

To say that Hungary has become an automobile power would be an exaggeration. The fact, however, is that the country not only preserved the industry, but also successfully developed it! Of course, there are problems, mistakes … But the main thing is that there are modern cars!

Maybe we should learn something from the former "brothers"?

On the podium in front of the main factory building - the first "Astra", assembled in Szentgotard.

"First line". Here, from the German sets, the body is welded.

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