BUDAPEST, Oct 30 (Reuters) - German carmaker Audi, which has invested close to $1.4 billion in Hungary since 1993, has said it is committed to staying and hopes to grow further once Hungary joins the European Union, probably in 2004.
The comments by the head of Audi Hungaria, the German carmaker's local unit, late on Tuesday followed U.S. group IBM's decision to close its hard disk drive plant in the western town of Szekesfehervar, with the loss of 3,700 jobs, the biggest single layoff in post-communist Hungary.
They also come amid fierce lobbying by several central European states to win a major new assembly plant to be built by French carmakerPeuguot Citroen .
Peuguot said on Monday it planned to build a new 700 million euro plant in the region and would decide early next year where to locate it.
The Czech Republic has already carved out a reputation as a regional car making centre, offering multinational companies skilled, yet cheap, labour as well as a fast growing market.
"Audi has set up its production line in Gyor for the long run and hopes...conditions will be favourable for further growth after Hungary's EU accession," news agency MTI quoted Audi's Juergen Lunemann as saying.
He said Audi made 970,000 engines in the first nine months of this year and would increase output to 1.3 million this year, up five percent year-on-year.
Audi Hungaria will also assemble 44,500 cars this year, a planned scaling back from over 50,000 last year.