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Carfactories in The Netherlands
The history of Kaiser - Frazer
Simca and the Nekaf plant
Simca and Chrysler Benelux

Naar de Nederlandstalige versie/ To the Dutch version

Simca and the Nekaf plant

In Rotterdam the factory of the NEKAF was situated. That name stands for Nederlandse Kaiser - Frazer Fabrieken. (=Dutch Kaiser - Frazer Factories) Because it was put up as an independent company, it could make its own policy, and could outlive the Mother Company in the United States. In 1958 Chrysler took over the company, whereafter a new flourishing period started. With the disappearing of import taxes the assembly became less profitable. In 1971, after 22 years, the factory was closed. In that period a lot of different brand were assembled, but nearly half of it were Simca's.

Het ontstaan van de fabriek

Kaiser -Frazer pointed its arrows soon at the European car market. After an attempt to take-over Fiat, the company tried to set foot on the ground in Europe in a different way. The establishment in the Benelux was attractive because many American cars were sold there. An other advantage was, that from march 1948 on, the import taxes between the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) were abolished. An investment in the Netherlands had the benefit that they could profit from the - at that time - low rate of the guilder and the low wage-costs.

On the part of the Dutch everything was done to fetch the new factory. The institute for Dutch-American co-operation played an important role, amongst others, by the achievement of the contacts with the government. Amsterdam as well as Rotterdam wanted to fetch in the new factory. Especially for Rotterdam some prestige was at stake, they didn't want to let this new chance slip out of their hands. For Kaiser-Frazer speed was decisive and the new factory could be realised first in Rotterdam.Not only a suitable location was available, but they also could use existing building materials. A heavily damaged shed of the Holland-America line appeared suitable to serve as base for the new factory. The steel rafters of the shed were reused on the new site at the Sluisjesdijk.

According to the planning, after half a year, the first Kaiser had to leave the assembly line. From reports of that time appears that not everyone had faith in achieving that goal. Still importance was attached to the project, it was called the largest foreign post-war investment. Kaiser-Frazer invested 200.000 dollar in the factory equipment and associated people from banks and influential-shipping companies financed the rest.

The location of the factory The Nekaf factory at the Sluisjesdijk The first Kaiser leaves the factory

They also expected the government to contribute their share. The dollar was so scarce in those days that it was allocated by the government. Kaiser-Frazer was allowed to import knocked-down parts for 6000 cars to the United States. This lead to a lot of criticism, because the procedure was seen as very untransparant. Other manufacturers feared that it would be at expense of their own allotments. The Ford Factory in Amsterdam was more or less forced to manufacture more V8 Models (Vedettes) because of the shortage of Dollars.

The answer to that was that the export of Kaisers would bring back many Dollars. Next to it they tried to save Dollars by using carparts from the Netherlands. Vredestein Tires were used, the screens were from Sas van Gent and the lining did come from Tilburg. When a Dutch supplier couldn't be found, parts from other 'soft currency' countries were applied. The headlights came from France (Marchal) and all kinds of electric parts came from England. In February 1949 the first Kaiser left the factory, indeed six months after the building permission was given.

The Kaiser assembly The Kaiser assembly The Kaiser assembly

In spite of the difficulties and the fact that they were a newcomer in the market, Kaiser-Frazer could deliver for 4 million Guilders to foreign countries in the first 9 months. Striking detail is that the agreements often were based on barter. For example, a Brazilian order for the delivery of almost 700 Kaisers was paid in cocoa. Carjournalists who visited the company in 1949 were very positive about the furnishing. Especially the welding together from the coachwork did impress them. They found it less modern that the factory didn't have an assembly line, the cars were moved by hand.

The beginning of the Simca assembly

After WO 2 the export of Fiats to the North was stopped. The Firm J. Leonard Lang (since 1892) that imported Fiats from 1923, searched for an alternative and did find it in the import of Simca's. At the carshow of 1949 in Paris it was the rumour that Simca had plans to assemble in het Netherlands. On a pressconference from the NEKAF management at the end of 1949, the rumour was confirmed. A contract was concluded for the assembly and distribution of Simca models for the Benelux. The Nekaf management told on that same pressconference that Simca approached them 6 months before they reached an agreement.

For the Nekaf it was an attractive contract, because after WO-2 it soon became clear that the American cars were too expensive to purchase and to maintain for most of the Europeans. Another huge advantage was that they weren't limited by the allotment of Dollars. The assembly in Rotterdam was also attractive for Simca, especially after the completion of the Benelux. Simca's from Rotterdam were exclusively destined for that market. Besides that, it can be pointed out that also other Big French brands owned an assemblyfactory in the Benelux, but they were all in Belgium. For the Simca's they also had the intention to use materials from the Netherlands as much as possible. (lining for instance)

Leonard Lang advertisement The first car of my grandpa; one of the first Simca's in the Nederlands Assembling the Simca 8 1200

In 1949 Simca was still represented by Leonard Lang, after that the Nekaf took over the distribution. In February 1950 the assembly of the Simca 8-1200 Started. Eventually =/- 600 cars of that type were built. When it was known that a new baby Kaiser would come, expectations were high. After the first year (1949) had been very fortuned fot the Nekaf - only on the Dutch market they already delivered 1166 Kaisers - troubles came soon. The quality was poor and that did no good for the company. Many of the complaints were about the finish, but the engine was also under fire because o the oil consumption.

Because of that the second hand value of the cars was very low, it was roughly half the value in comparison to the other American cars. The problems were even bigger with the Henry J., the small model from 1951, in spite of the high expectations. Dealers turned away from the brand, because they had to make such large expenses to keep their customers satisfied, that they couldn't make a profit out of selling them.

The pride of Rotterdam Kaiser Henry J 1953 The 10000th Nekaf car was an Aronde

The Aronde

Expectations were also high, when in 1951 the new Simca Aronde entered the market. A week after the introduction of the Aronde in France, the agreement was fitted to assemble this model in Rotterdam. The design was, as well as the design from the simultaneously developed Fiat 1400, much inspired by the Kaiser from 1946, so it fitted quite well to the Kaiser models. In contrary to the Henry J, the sales of the Aronde went well, a decent part of the market was achieved. Simca became more and more and important pillar under the existence of the Nekaf. Therefore, it was no coincidence, that the 10.000th car, which was assembled by the Nekaf, was an Aronde. In 1955 for instance, 2360 Arondes left the factory at the Sluisjesdijk.

Yet, also for the Aronde some critical remarks could be made. The first models had several quality problems and it was also known as not very settled to corrosion. To that came the high costs of the spare parts. They costged a multiple amount of parts from competitive makes. In 1953 a new model from a different make was added to the range of the Nekaf, a Hillman. Till the end of 1956, 1914 cars of the Minx type were built, and 258 from the Husky type. After that a new Minx range came out and the installation of a new production line didn't seem to be profitable.

Hillman Minx Willys Aero Taxi's a holiday pickture of the Aronde; collection Frans Smelt

They decided to concentrate more on the production of the Aronde. From 1954 on also the Willys models were assembled. The civil versions of the Jeep and the Aero models. That last model could be seen as a good successor of the Henry J and had next to the more appealing bodyshape, the solid image of Willys. Due to the low production in the USA, the model was quite expensive in the Netherlands, that is why it never really became a success. Because the assembly of the model was ended in 1955 already, the Nekaf built only 265.

The 10.000th Simca that was assembled in the Nederlands; collection Frans Smelt The 10.000th Simca that was assembled in the Nederlands; collection Frans Smelt Nekaf Jeep M38A1 The Jeep model again became a huge success for the Nekaf, in 1955 a contract was fitted for the delivery to the Dutch Army. Because of that, the company became very well known, it also was a large order. The Nekaf built the total number of 5674. The success of the Aronde was continued, on the 5th of December 1956 the 10.000th Simca, which was assembled in the Netherlands, came off the assembly line. The successful Simca dealer Smelt in Amsterdam delivered this car. On the 20th of December the 25.000th car left the assembly line, it was one of the Jeeps destined for the Dutch Army.

Simca chauffeurs; collection Gerard Menses Simca Nekaf transport 1957 1958; collection Gerard Menses

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