SAO PAULO — Volkswagen AG's controversial Resende truck factory has come a long way since its stroll across the world's stage six years ago.

Today, the German automaker holds second place in Brazil's commercial truck production, with its 85 units per day surpassing Ford Motor Co. and falling just behind perennial leader Mercedes-Benz.

The Resende plant was conceived by Jose Ignacio Lopes (de Arriortua) based on the revolutionary premise of suppliers producing most of the vehicle at the automaker's plant.

Suppliers that make up the modular consortium are located inside the plant and are responsible for each aspect of the vehicle on the assembly line, while VW is responsible for the design and quality control.

Lopes, who at the time of the factory's conception was worldwide vice president of Volkswagen, was accused of industrial espionage by his former employer, General Motors Corp., which claimed the Resende plant was based on GM plans.

During its first years of operations, the plant, located in the state of Rio de Janeiro and VW's only truckmaking operation for the domestic market, had a difficult time finding its market niche. But sales since have taken off, last year jumping 39% over 1999, while the overall truck market rose by 36%.

There has been much speculation by industry observers over whether involving suppliers so heavily in modular assembly is a workable concept. But VW believes success now is apparent.

“Setting up something revolutionary requires adjustments and adaptation,” says Roberto Cortes, superintendent of VW's truck and bus division for Latin America. “We have done this.”