Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

January 23, 2013

GM Opel plant may close early

German plant wants employees to agree on turnaround plan

BERLIN (AP) — General Motors Co. is pressing employees in Germany to agree on a turnaround plan for its struggling European unit, warning if there is no deal it would end car production at one of its German plants two years earlier than planned.

Opel announced last month it plans to stop producing cars at the plant in Bochum, in northwestern Germany, at the end of 2016 when it stops making its current Zafira model. It has been negotiating with employee representatives in the country on its turnaround plan.

In a letter Thursday to German employees Steve Girsky, chairman of Opel's board of directors and GM vice chairman, underscored the need for "further significant savings" and flexibility, and said the talks — which have been ongoing since last June — need to reach a resolution next month.

If there is no deal, Zafira production in Bochum would end Jan. 1, 2015, after an existing agreement to keep the site open expires, Girsky added.

Opel spokeswoman Johanna Lomp-Knetsch stressed that, as negotiations continue, the company stands by the plan it presented in December to keep production going until 2016.

Opel, like several other mass-market car manufacturers on the continent, has been struggling amid economic gloom across Europe and overcapacity in the auto industry. Its turnaround plan envisions cost cuts, new models and efforts to win new export sales.

In his letter, Girsky wrote that "the situation in the overall European market remains catastrophic." About 3,000 people work at the Bochum factory, one of four Opel plants in Germany.

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