With four hot models to produce, Subaru-Isuzu Automotive Inc., projects that it will assemble 227,000 vehicles this year, the most in its 10-year history. The Lafayette, IN, facility expects to assemble 126,000 Isuzus and 101,000 Subarus by the end of this month. That will eclipse the 194,871 vehicles the plant produced in 1996.

However, Ann McConnell, a spokeswoman for SIA, says the plant's production will taper off to about 210,000 vehicles because of a changeover to all-new 2000 Subaru Legacy sedans and Outback station wagons that are scheduled to start production in May. It's the first complete facelift for these models in four years.

The plant probably will build out '99 Subarus in April. Changing dies and other equipment will close the line temporarily. SIA will then slowly ramp up production for the 2000 Subaru vehicles. Richard Marshall, a Subaru of America spokesman, says the actual startup of production is still "a moving target." Discussions are still going on, he adds.

SIA is a nearly 3 million sq. ft. (278,000 sq. m) plant with 10.7 miles (17.2 km) of conveyors.

Subaru owns 51% of SIA and always appoints the president, who is now Hitoshi Maeda. YTD production through Oct. 31 is 71,292 Legacys and 95,021 SUVs. There were 58,557 Subaru wagons produced and 12,734 Subaru sedans rolled off SIA's line. Isuzu Rodeos account for 49,990 units and 5,309 Amigos have been assembled. Honda Passports accounted for 21,524 units.

About 3,100 workers are now employed by SIA. They work two shifts, five days a week, but Ms. McConnell says the plant has worked "a few Saturdays this year," as sales demanded. She says there is also a third maintenance shift, but there are currently no plans to assemble any other models in the plant.

Both companies export some of the SIA-assembled vehicles. By the end of CY 1998, SIA will have built 1,378,128 vehicles.

The agreement between Subaru and Isuzu, which have invested more than $1 billion in the plant, calls for a 50/50 split in production. However, this varies according to market conditions.

When one brand is hot, production adjustments are made to assemble more of the make in demand. Both brands are hot now, and both companies are looking for maximum output. Ms. McConnell says SIA has no plans to add to capacity.