Machine Building

Romania Table of Contents

Contributing about 35 percent of total industrial output in the 1980s, machine building had become the largest industrial sector. The Soviet Union and Comecon helped set up and outfit machinebuilding plants in the 1950s, but during the 1960s Romania began acquiring technology and know-how from the West. In the 1980s, however, many manufacturing ventures initiated with Western partners in the previous decade were on shaky ground or had already failed. As a rule, capitalist enterprises found both the output and quality of goods produced by these ventures unsatisfactory. Because of restrictions on imports, domestic industry was required to satisfy nearly 90 percent of the country's machinery and equipment needs during the 1980s.

In terms of both volume and diversity of output, the machinery sector was impressive. In 1982 Romania ranked tenth in the world in the production of machine tools and was the world's largest exporter of railroad freight cars and the third largest exporter of oil-field equipment. It was one of the few countries to build offshore-drilling platforms. A symbol of industrial sophistication, the giant rigs were assembled at the Galati shipyard using domestically manufactured components. And great strides had been made in the production of aircraft, electronic and electrical equipment, ships, and ground vehicles.

Aircraft Industry

The aircraft industry in Romania dates from 1925, when the first airplane factory began operation in Brasov. Following World War II, the few production facilities not retooled for other purposes built only light planes and gliders. But in 1968, in keeping with PCR aspirations of economic autonomy, the government revived production of heavy aircraft and established the National Center of the Romanian Aircraft Industry under the Ministry of Machine Building. The center oversaw the operation of airframe plants in Craiova, Bacau, Bucharest, and Brasov, and the Turbomecanica plant in Bucharest, where all the jet engines for Romanian-built planes were manufactured.

Romania was able to acquire both Western and Soviet technology to manufacture modern aircraft. The most successful projects involving such technology transfer included the Soviet-designed Yak-52 piston-engine two-seater (the primary trainer used in the Soviet Union) and Ka-126 agricultural-use helicopter; the Rombac 1- 11 airliner, built under license from British Aerospace using a fuselage designed by British Airways and a Rolls-Royce engine; Viper engines built under license from Rolls-Royce; and the Frenchdesigned IAR-316 Allouette III and IAR-330 Puma helicopters. A noteworthy example of homegrown aircraft design was the IAR-93 Orao combat aircraft and a later model, the IAR-99, which were developed jointly with Yugoslavia.

Automotive Industry

In 1965 a fledgling automotive industry produced only 3,653 passenger cars. In the 1980s, the industry consisted of three large auto assembly plants (at Pitesti, Craiova, and Cīmpulung in Arges, judet), eight subassembly enterprises, and more than 100 automotive parts factories. Production in 1988 amounted to 121,400 passenger cars and 17,400 trucks--well below the target set forth in the Eighth Five-Year Plan, which had anticipated an annual production of 365,000 automobiles by 1990.

A plant in Pitesti began assembling Dacia passenger cars in 1968 under license from Renault and turned out its millionth unit in 1985. In 1986 an affiliated plant in Timisoara began building a subcompact, the Dacia 500, using exclusively Romanian-designed and Romanian-produced components; the plant expected the car to compete on the world market beginning in 1990. Other automotive centers in the 1980s were Craiova (Oltcit automobiles produced under license from Citröen); Cīmpulung (Aro cross-country vehicles); Brasov (trucks and tractors); Braila (earthmovers); and Bucharest (vans and panel trucks). In 1989 negotiations were under way to set up a joint venture with two Japanese corporations to manufacture buses and trucks at a factory in Bucharest for sale to third-world countries.

Between 50 and 80 percent of the automotive industry's output during the 1980s was exported. Poor quality control, however, damaged the international reputation of Romanian vehicles. Hungary, a primary client, complained that 60 to 70 percent of Dacia cars delivered in 1986 were defective and required repairs before they could be sold to the public.

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

Claiming to be the world's largest exporter of railroad cars, Romania sold roughly 70 percent of its output to foreign clients during the 1980s, and during the 1970-84 period it exported more than 100,000 freight cars, 3,000 passenger coaches, and 1,500 locomotives. The Soviet Union bought the lion's share, including the entire output of 70-ton and 105-ton freight cars. The August 23 Machinery Plant in Bucharest, the largest manufacturing facility in the country, was a major producer of diesel-electric locomotives and railroad cars. Other important plants were located in Craiova in Olt judet, Arad, Drobeta-Turnu Severin, Caracal, Iasi, and several other cities. In the mid-1980s, a large new plant was built at Caracal to produce grain cars for export to the Soviet Union in exchange for electricity.

Machine Tools

Annual production of machine tools in the two decades after 1965 expanded more than six-fold in terms of tonnage. At the same time, ever more sophisticated units were manufactured, and the monetary value of output rose by a factor of thirty-one. During the 1980s in particular, Romania pushed to replace imported machinetool technology with its own products and began designing and building high-precision units featuring numerical control, automatic lines, and flexible processing cells. The Scientific Research and Technological Engineering Institute for Machine Tools, established in 1966, coordinated a successful research and design program that placed Romania among the world's top ten machine-tool manufacturers in the 1980s. Romania manufactured 35.5 percent of the universal and specialized machine tools on the Comecon product list--second only to the Soviet Union.

Computers and Automation Technology

The high-status automation-technology and computer industries received priority treatment during the 1970s and 1980s. Plants began producing a wide range of computers, peripherals, industrial electronic measuring equipment, and electronic control systems for domestic consumption and export--primarily to other Comecon and Third-World countries. In 1973 the United States firm Control Data Corporation set up a joint venture with the Bucharest Industrial Central for Electronics and Automation--known as the Rom-Control- Data Company--to manufacture and market computer disk drives and printers. The joint venture was among the most successful operating on Romanian territory and was earning an annual profit of 7 to 8 percent in the late 1980s. More than a dozen major automationtechnology plants and research centers were located in Bucharest by the mid-1980s, and facilities had also been built in such cities as Timisoara and Cluj-Napoca. In the late 1980s the Bucharest Computer Enterprise was producing fourth-generation Independent microcomputers, and its Felix models found application in machinetool control, data transmission, and robotics. Romania intended to double its production of computer equipment during the Eighth FiveYear Plan.

Electrical Engineering

Nearly half of Romania's electricity output was generated by Soviet equipment, and the Piatra Neamt nuclear plant, the construction of which began in 1986, was expected to use mostly Soviet-supplied components. It was not until 1970 that domestic industry was able to manufacture steam turbines larger than 6 megawatts, but by the 1980s Romania was producing 330-megawatt steam turbines, hydraulic turbines of all sizes, boilers, nuclear reactor components, transformers, and other power-engineering equipment. By then Romania had become the largest foreign supplier of electric power transformers to the Soviet Union. The major power-engineering plants included the Bucharest Heavy Machinery Plant, the Resita Machine-Building Plant, and the Vulcan enterprise in Bucharest.


After the mid-1960s, the shipbuilding program developed rapidly, as the industry made the transition from small-tonnage vessels to huge bulk-cargo and special-purpose ships. By the late 1980s, Constanta, the country's most important shipyard, was building 165,000-deadweight-ton ore carriers, 150,000-deadweightton oil tankers, sea-going railroad ferry ships, and offshoredrilling platforms. Other important shipbuilding centers were Mangalia (site of Romania's largest naval base) and several cities along the Danube--Drobeta-Turnu Severin, Oltenita, Giurgiu, Braila, Galati, and Tulcea--that built river craft and smaller ocean-going ships. In 1989 the Galati shipyard launched an 8,000- deadweight-ton roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) container carrier--the first of its kind built in the country.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress