General Motors' unit Adam Opel expects to gain market share in its native Germany this year but its new Astra hatchback won't contribute, chief executive Carl-Peter Forster said.

"We will not gain market share in the C (compact) segment since we're in a launch year," he told Reuters at the Geneva motor show, adding that Opel was aiming to gain 0.2% in Germany overall.

Forster reportedly expects car sales in Germany to rise in line with industry association VDA's 2% to 3% forecast.

The launch of the Astra "looks good", he told Reuters, with order intake above plan and customers expected to have placed 40,000 orders by the time the redesigned model line reaches showrooms on March 19.

He reportedly confirmed that Opel was aiming to sell 200,000 Astras - which will compete head on with Volkswagen's Golf V launched last year - in 2004 while the company also expects to sell about 100,000 of the old Astra, taking total sales to 300,000.

Reuters said Forster was surprisingly candid about the problems VW is facing with the disappointing launch of the Golf.

"The German pricing was far beyond any competitive price point," he told the news agency, adding: "It also isn't the biggest design step forward," and claiming that the Astra clearly was, in both design and engineering terms.