General Motors’ struggling European division is still hoping to break even for 2004, GM Europe’s deputy chairman Carl-Peter Forster told journalists on Monday.

“We have not given up,” Forster told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference. “It always was a stretch target.”

The news agency noted that, early last month, GM chief executive Robert Wagoner first signalled that his goal for GME’s earnings to range between breakeven and $US100 million after taxes had become difficult.

GM Europe reportedly announced shortly thereafter wide-ranging plans to revamp the loss-making European operations of the world’s largest car maker.

“We will see some savings this year, but more savings in the next and 2006,” Forster told Reuters.

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The report said the latest plan comes on top of repeated efforts to stanch the losses that have plagued GME for years now. GME consists mainly of its Opel subsidiary, but also includes Opel’s British sister brand Vauxhall and Swedish car maker Saab.

Reuters noted that, in summer 2001, Forster, who had just taken over the post of CEO at Opel at the time, announced a comprehensive cost-cutting programme at Opel to help return it to profit in two years’ time but, in 2003, Opel’s operating loss widened to €384 million ($472 million) from a loss of €227 million a year earlier.

In the same year, GME reported net losses had narrowed to $286 million from $549 million in 2002, the report added.