General Motors‘ Opel unit should move Mokka production to Europe from South Korea where it is currently produced if the economic crisis continues, said the company’s works council chief.

Wolfgang Schaefer-Klug told Reuters Opel could consider bringing production of the Mokka to Europe at the cost of jobs in Korea and added: “The Mokka would fill an important gap in our Spanish plant, and help to improve utilisation there. This volume was never supposed to go to Korea in the first place.”

Schaefer-Klug said he does not expect job losses and downsizing at General Motors operations in Europe to be anywhere near those announced recently by Ford.

Ford is to cut 5,700 jobs and close three factories but Schaefer-Klug said he aims to reach a deal over the future size of GM’s German workforce with management before Christmas and did not believe the talks would spread into discussions on other major closures.

He told Reuters: “I don’t expect that it will come to some huge number of job cuts as part of the restructuring, rather the opposite, much fewer.”

He reiterated opposition to Opel’s plans to close its plant in the western German city of Bochum but added that his top priority was to ensure workers have secure jobs come 2017 when the site could be shut.

Schaefer-Klug is negotiating with Opel and trade union IG Metall to extend a blanket job guarantee for the company’s four German sites by two years to the end of 2016.

The Opel labour leader said he did not believe Ford’s move would put pressure on Opel to take more drastic action, dismissing reports that GM is falling behind its US peer in tackling overcapacity in Europe.

In recent years Opel has shut a factory in Antwerp, Belgium, its commercial van plant in Portugal and car manufacturing at its Luton, England facility while Ford had not closed any vehicle assembly plants since Dagenham, England, in 2002, he said.

Opel has already cut into its fixed cost base so deeply and employs fewer people in its German market than Ford.

Schaefer-Klug said: “Opel has taken out 600,000 cars in capacity and cut 12,000 workers since 2006. Additionally, two engine plants were closed and several lines were taken out in European sites, reducing capacity even more.”