GM/Opel grabbed headlines with this year's US$ 385 million expansion of its Vienna facility to produce the new Ecotec engine. Vienna is now Opel's largest producer of engines (440,000 per year) and transmissions (840,000).

And with BMW/Steyr's production hike to 445,000 engines this year, more than 2/3s of all BMWs will have Austria-built engines. BMW is planning a diesel center of excellence in Upper Austria, and Audi is considering producing its first 3.0 liter car in Austria.

The recent investments further demonstrate Austria's emergence as a low-cost, high-value automotive producer. Mercedes is also among the automakers taking advantage of Austria's high productivity and large component supplier base and Styria is the European development and production center for Chrysler's minivans and sports utility vehicles.

Even as production capacity fell Europe-wide, investments by auto and component manufacturers in Austria hit a record US$ 662 million last year. Vienna, Graz and Styria have developed automotive clusters with valued research and supply infrastructures. More than 450 component manufacturers deliver high quality just-in-time.

Impressive 1996 exports prove the sector's competitiveness: Austria exported a record US$ 3.9 billion in automotive parts worldwide - well exceeding its US$ 3.8 billion car imports (up 14%).

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