BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Volkswagen Slovakia adds a third shift to its New Small Family minicar production at its plant here, almost four weeks earlier than originally expected, amid high demand.

Volume production of the New Small Family range started last August with the VW Up! 3-door version, followed by the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii siblings some weeks later. The second shift was added in early November.

The auto maker launches volume production of 5-door versions of the VW Up! today, with the other two brands to follow. The minicars were unveiled at the Geneva auto show earier this month.

"The Slovakia plant will launch production of the electric-version of the Up!, VW Group's first pure-electric car, in mid-2013," Albrecht Reimold, CEO of Volkswagen Slovakia, tells WardsAuto.

The facility currently manufactures two separate vehicle groups. Its portfolio includes large vehicles such as the VW Touareg and Audi Q7 cross/utility vehicles and bodies for the Porsche Cayenne CUV, as well as VW Group’s New Small Family cars, the auto maker’s smallest.

VW recently invested some €50 million ($66 million) to increase CUV production capacity at the Slovakia facility by 25%. Much of the work on the production equipment has been done during an extended Christmas break.

Output at the plant totaled 210,441 units last year, up 45.6% from 2010. All figures reported by VW include completely built-up vehicles as well as the Cayenne bodies that are shipped to a Porsche plant in Leipzig, Germany, for final assembly.

Total production for 2011 included 79,986 VW Touaregs, 53,703 Audi Q7 vehicles and 62,123 Cayenne bodies, as well as the first 12,612 Up! cars, 1,027 Skoda Citigo and 990 SEAT Mii minicars.

Plans call for output of more than 400,000 units this year. “We are watching the market very carefully, but we are absolutely certain that we will reach this figure,” Reimold says.

VW Slovakia is building CUVs on four shifts seven days a week, while minicar production runs three shifts on a 5-day schedule.

The auto maker also manufactured a record 401,000 transmissions, up 5.8% from 2010. Component production at VW Slovakia’s second factory in the city of Martin reached an all-time high 34 million parts, up 7.9% from 2010.

The auto maker last year hired 1,400 workers, raising total employment to 8,400. Another 650 employees are being hired for the third shift of New Small Family production, with some still to be hired because of the earlier start of the third shift.

At the same time, a press shop that will employ about 100 workers is being built. The €85 million ($112 million) facility is expected to launch volume production in third-quarter 2013.

Reimold also confirms plans to build a new welding shop covering more than 10.7 million sq.-ft. (100,000 sq.-m), but he does not specify its cost, timeframe or how many new jobs it will create.

VW Slovakia’s 2011 revenues rose 28.5% year-on-year to €5.19 billion ($6.8 billion).

The auto maker has invested €2.1 ($2.8 billion) billion in its Slovakia plants over the past 20 years and plans to spend another €1.5 billion ($2 billion) by 2016.