General Motors’ German Opel operation said on Thursday it plans to invest more than $US1 billion in a number of car projects as well as to launch 20 new cars globally by 2006 to get back into profit, according to a report in the Gulf News.

The new car launches would be driven by Opel’s Vectra models that are currently manufactured at the company’s Russelsheim facility in Germany, said Klaus Weichsler, marketing director at Opel International Product Centre, Germany.

“The exact investments will be difficult to predict, but over one billion dollars will be invested in these projects and the bulk of it in 2003,” Weichsler said on the sidelines of the launch of Vectra in Bombay, India.

“The Vectra will be the key driver, apart from the Meriva and a family wagon built on the Corsa platform. The focus of these cars will be on the traditional buyer as also the modern-centric buyer.”

He said Opel would soon phase out the Omega sedan as the more sophisticated and upgraded Vectra had emerged as a hot seller in Germany and the rest of western Europe.

“We have sold 33,000 Vectras in Germany and nearly 107,000 in western Europe in 2002. The car is really selling fast,” Weichsler said.

The Indian subsidiary of General Motors yesterday launched the Vectra at a price of 1.7 million rupees ($US35,438) and hopes to sell 1,000 units in 2003.

Analysts expect Opel to post a operating loss of around 490 million euros in 2002 and a narrower loss of 80 million euros ($84.1m) this year before returning to profit next year.