Carl-Peter Forster, president of beleaguered GM Europe, believes that its operations will be recovered in two years' time.

Forster said: "Once this crisis is over - and sooner or later it will be over - I think we have a great future. We have made money with Opel in Europe in 2006, 2007 and the first half of 2008 and we believe that in about two years' time we will be able to make money again in Europe."

Forster also said that GM Europe's cash situation had been hampered by the need for GM to contribute to social benefit systems in the US which had eaten away at its cash reserves and weakened the company's balance sheet.

"In the past fifteen years in the US we had to invest more than $100bn in social benefit systems and that has weakened our balance sheet. 

"That puts us in a weak position in the face of the current crisis. Therefore we are asking governments for support which we believe will help us work our way through the economic crisis and come out of it stronger than ever."