Not the end of the assembly line: American start-up pulls Dutch car factory back from the brink

The Canoo minibus won't be built in Born. Photo: Canoo handout
Canoo handout

VDL Nedcar in Born is going to build electric cars for new American car maker Canoo from next year.

The order, which will run until 2028, comes a year before the end of the contract with BMW for which Nedcar builds Minis and BMWs.

The new contract is ‘fantastic news for our workers in Born’, broadcaster NOS quoted director John van Soerland as saying.

The future of Nedcar would have hung in the balance if Canoo, a Californian start up which makes sustainable pickup trucks and minibuses, had not jumped in. The company already announced possible redundancy for hundreds of workers in December because of falling car sales. The end of the contract could have cost thousands of jobs more.

Nedcar will be making Canoo’s first minibus, a model called the Lifestyle Vehicle. Production will start in the fourth quarter of 2022 when1,000 of the minibuses will be delivered. In 2023 some 1,500 will roll off the assembly lines. Canoo will meanwhile build its own factory in Oklahoma.

‘The numbers are not huge and nothing compared to the number of cars we are producing for BMW at the moment. But this is an important first step,’ Nedcar spokesman Miel Timmers told the broadcaster. Nedcar produced over 125,000 cars last year for BMW.

‘This order will not keep everybody in work but we are not betting on one horse,’ Timmers said. ‘We want to work for a number of clients simultaneously, start ups as well as established makes. We are confident we will not have to let anyone go.’

Nedcar is the only car factory of any size in the Netherlands. It started life in 1967 when DAF started to produce cars there. The Limburg base was chosen to provide work for the miners who found themselves out of a job when the coal mines were closed.

In 1975 it was taken over by Volvo, which was joined by Mitsibushi in 1991. The latter eventually bought the factory but in 2012 it was sold to Dutch entrepreneur Wim van der Leegte. The factory currently employs some 4,000 people.

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