Delphi Automotive Systems says by year-end it will make money on the first two common-rail diesel fuel injection systems it is supplying for the European Ford Focus and Renault Clio. Delphi also will supply common rail to two additional vehicles within a year.

Jose Maria Alapont, president of Delphi's operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, makes the prediction to North American journalists visiting Delphi's plant in LaRochelle, France, where production of Delphi's first-ever common-rail system began earlier this year.

Delphi spent $300 million to equip the LaRochelle plant to manufacture common-rail injectors. The injectors, which must meet strict tolerances, are inspected by microscopes along the production line.

The final assembly is highly automated but still requires manual labor in a dust-free “clean room” staffed by employees dressed in white protective clothing. The section of the LaRochelle plant devoted to common-rail production is air conditioned, with a temperature of 73°F (23°C) to maintain tolerances.

Mr. Alapont says this complex process is well worth the cost, as the European diesel market is growing rapidly. Delphi's initial output of 500,000 common-rail systems a year is expected to reach 2 million units by 2003.