Session 1997

Epreuve écrite d'anglais


1A cash infusion may help, yet Fiat's future is being decided today not in the boardrooms and design centers of Turin but on a dusty plain in southern Italy. There, in the heart of one of Italy's most depressed regions, Fiat has built its factory of the future. This month the $3 billion assembly plant near the city of Melfi begins test production of the new Punto, the car Fiat hopes someday will be as ubiquitous as the decade-old Uno. Fiat says Melfi is the culmination of everything it has learned about building cars. Though some of Fiat's critics may scoff at such claims, Melfi is no small break-through. "It's probably the best plant in Europe after the Japanese transplants," says British-based auto-industry analyst Krish Bhaskar, director of the Motor Industry Research Unit.

2 [Fiat says Melfi will be the model for its new "integrated factory" – its concept for a process based on Japanese-style work groups with a higher level of autonomy. In order for the plant to reach a projected output of 450,000 Puntos a year, the company says it will be 50 percent more efficient than the average at its other factories. In a sharp change from previous production strategy, Fiat will rely less on automation at Melfi than it does in its older factories, cutting down on the number of robots used. At the very least, Melfi may be the least bureaucratic automobile plant in the world. Though Fiat eventually will employ 7,000 people in Melfi, it has dispensed with the standard office building. Managers and technical specialists will work in glassed-in areas inside the factory, close enough to the assembly line that they can respond quickly to the slightest hitch in production.] "In other plants we've had to force the fabrica integrata (1) into existing layouts," says Fiat's top auto executive, Paolo Cantarella. "We've built Melfi with it in mind."

3 Melfi City: There are other advantages to starting from scratch (2). The average age of the work force will be just 26 (compared with 46 at other plants), and Fiat figures that only about 50 of the 7,000 employees will have any industrial experience. That might not sound like a good thing, but the company insists it means workers won't walk through the door with a toolbox full of bad habits. In addition, the company will benefit from the Italian government's decision last year to abolish the scala mobile wage-indexing system – a decades-old arrangement that gave workers automatic increases in pay and benefits every year. Low inflation shouldn't hurt either. Italy's is running about the same as Germany's – 4.5 percent – and far lower than its historical levels. "It's wonderful to get such a fresh start," says Dagmar Bottenbruch, an auto analyst at Crédit Suisse First Boston in Milan. Melfi also brings new meaning to the term "just in time" delivery. Adjacent to the factory, 22 component suppliers will produce everything from seats to dashboards to bumpers. Housed in a cluster of buildings – dubbed Melfi City – almost as large as the main plant itself, they will make 1,000 deliveries a day directly into the plant.

4 In the end, Melfi – like Fiat – must prove it can manufacture cars not only efficiently but of high enough quality to take on the likes of Opel, Renault and Volkswagen throughout Europe. Fiat's last effort to build a plant of the future in Cassino, between Rome and Naples, went too far with automation; the factory is too inflexible and suffers from lingering quality problems. Will Melfi succeed where Cassino has not? "They say Melfi is all about people efficiency," says leading auto-industry analyst Daniel T. Jones of Cardiff Business School in Wales. "But the question is, can it deliver high quality? That's the key." The skepticism is evident; this time Fiat hopes to prove it wrong.

William Burger in Melfi
Newsweek, October 11, 1993

(1) "fabricata integrata"= "integrated factory"

(2) to start from scratch = to start from nothing.



1 - Traduire en français depuis « Fiat says Melfi will be the model » jusqu'à « hitch in production ») (paragraphe 2). (10 points)

2 - Répondre en anglais aux questions suivantes :

a) What are the advantages of starting from scratch? Can you think of any drawbacks? (100 - 120 words) (6 points)

b) Why has Fiat reduced the number of its robots at Melfi? (50 - 70 words) (4 points)


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