General Motors has said it could take "unconventional and aggressive steps" to cut costs in Europe, ahead of its deadline tomorrow (17 February) to present a recovery plan to the US government in return for federal loans.

"GM will not comment on speculations about possible plant closures," the carmaker said in a statement.

GM, which has received an emergency loan of US$9.4bn (EUR7.4bn ) from the US government, added that its Europe unit was "seeking to reduce annual structural cost" in order to cope with the severe economic downturn battering Europe, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"The economic crisis and its severe impact in consumer confidence and purchase behaviour will require GM Europe (GME) to take further restructuring measures, while trying to preserve as many jobs as possible," it added.

The group said that it told European employees last Thursday that the management could take "unconventional and aggressive steps to reduce the structural costs in Europe".

Trade paper Automotive News Europe has said three GME factories most at risk of closure are Antwerp in Belgium, Ellesmere Port in Britain and at least one plant in Germany.

AFP noted that GM has already slashed more than 1m units of capacity over the past year, could cut more and has also announced plans to eliminate the jobs of an additional 3,400 of its 29,000 salaried employees worldwide and to offer early retirement packages to all 62,000 hourly US workers.