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GM adds Astra to Rüheim plant

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John Revill

July 7, 2008 06:01 CET

General Motors Europe's decision to build its new Astra in Rüsselsheim, Germany, will not affect other plants scheduled to produce the key model starting in 2010, a top union official says.

Currently, GM's Rüsselsheim plant only builds upper-medium cars for its Opel and Vauxhall subsidiaries. But weak sales in the segment have forced GM to scale back its production schedule. The factory is currently running at a little more than half its 218,000 annual capacity.

GM's June 20 announcement that the Astra will be built in Rüsselsheim came as a bit of a surprise. Industry observers expected GM to move production of the Saab 9-3 to Rüsselsheim from Trollhättan, Sweden, to boost capacity at Rüsselsheim. Klaus Franz, head of the Opel works council, said the change was a straight swap between the German and Swedish plants.

"The Saab 9-3 will be produced at Trollhättan and the Astra at Rüsselsheim," Franz said. "It will have no impact on existing agreements."

Franz said adding Astra production in Rüsselsheim is good news for the factory. "Now the plant is not so dependent on the ups and downs and life cycles of particular cars," he said.

The Astra is GM Europe's biggest seller with 443,382 unit sales in Europe and Turkey last year, according to JATO Dynamics.

In April 2007, GM Europe chose the current Astra plants of Bochum, Germany; Gliwice, Poland and Ellesmere Port, England, as well Saab's Trollhättan plant to build the next-generation Astra.

GM Europe's factory in Antwerp, Belgium, which also builds the current Astra, lost the car and is reducing its workforce by 1,400.

In the future, Rüsselsheim will build cars on GM's Delta and Epsilon architectures. The new Astra will be based on GM's Delta platform and the Insignia will be on the Epsilon. The Insignia will replace the Vectra sedan and Signum station wagon after its debut at the London auto show on July 22. In 2007, Rüsselsheim built 125,936 cars and operated at 57.7 percent of its capacity, according to consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, head of the German automotive forecasting group B&D Forecast, said Insignia production will account for 100,000 to 150,000 units of Rüsselsheim's capacity when a third shift was added in 2010. The remainder would be made up by Astra and Saab 9-5 production.

"If a plant operates below 85 percent to 90 percent of its capacity, it is losing money so adding the Astra will prevent that," Dudenhöffer said.

Rüsselsheim has a capacity of 218,000, but Franz said that adding the third shift will boost capacity to 270,000.

Production plants

Where GM will make next Opel/Vauxhall Astra starting in 2010

-- Rüsselsheim, Germany

-- Bochum, Germany

-- Gliwice, Poland

-- Ellesmere Port, UK

Link: http://www.autonews.com/article/20080707/A...paign_id=alerts

Edited by Pontiac Custom-S
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