GYOR, Hungary – Production of Audi AG’s new A3 Cabriolet is under way here, the result of a E65 million ($96 million) investment by the German auto maker in two plants.

Audi spent nearly E60 million ($88 million) to tool up the Ingolstadt, Germany, factory and E5 million ($8 million) at the Audi Hungaria Motor Kft. factory in Gyor for highly flexible tooling that allows production of the A3 Cabriolet on the same line as the TT Coupe and Roadster.

As in the case of the TT, the new soft-top A3 Cabriolet will be manufactured using the proven production alliance with Audi’s plant in Ingolstadt, where bodies are welded and painted, then shipped by train to Gyor for final assembly.

The auto maker plans to make only a small number of A3 Cabriolets this year.

“First cars destined for customers will be manufactured in early 2008,” says Frank Dreves, Audi’s management board member responsible for production.

Audi expects to produce some 20,000 A3 Cabriolets annually. The plant in Gyor has a combined capacity for all three models of 300 cars per day with three shifts, with some flexibility as to the mix.

Currently, the Gyor plant operates on only two shifts of assembly, but a third shift will be added next year, Dreves says.

In addition to cars, the Hungarian plant manufactures gasoline and diesel engines, as well as several aluminum body parts for the Audi R8 mid-engine sports car.

Audi Hungaria Motor employs about 5,500 people, including 900 in the car assembly.

The plant will produce some 50,000 cars this year.