Volkswagen eyes Poland for Crafter van plant - sources

Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:36am EST

* Daimler co-operation agreement ends in 2016

* Poland favourite for new plant, but no decision yet -source

* Polish production would bring significant savings

BERLIN, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Volkswagen is considering building a new factory in Poland to assemble the Crafter large delivery van, two people familiar with the matter said.

Assembling the vehicle in Poland would allow the German group, which already makes the Caddy and T5 commercial vehicles near Poznan, to reduce production costs significantly.

Labour costs in Poland's manufacturing industry amounted to an hourly 6.65 euros ($9.16) per worker last year, about a sixth of the 36.98 euros in Germany, according to the Cologne-based IW economic institute.

A decision to build a new Polish vehicle plant hasn't been taken yet, though all signs are pointing in this direction, said one of the sources, who declined to be named because the matter is confidential.

VW said it has been examining possible production sites for the Crafter in a number of countries as it nears the end of its co-operation agreement with rival Daimler, which has built the Crafter in Germany since 2005.

The Crafter and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz Sprinter share the same production platform, but Daimler said in September that it will stop building the VW model at the end of 2016 to concentrate on the next generation of the Sprinter.

The outsourcing of Crafter production to Poland would require approval from VW's supervisory board, which is evenly split between labour and management.

Labour is unlikely to stir up tensions, however, after the board's approval last month of almost 40 billion euros of spending on VW's German factories as it steps up its efforts to surpass Toyota and General Motors as the world's biggest auto manufacturer by 2018.

Polish newspaper Puls Biznesu reported on the possible new VW plant on Wednesday, saying the project would entail 1 billion euros of investment and create 3,000 jobs.

Deputy Polish Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski said last week that a major global carmaker may unveil production plans in the country this month, without offering more detail. ($1 = 0.7261 euros) (Reporting by Andreas Cremer and Jan Schwartz; Additional reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by David Goodman)