Saab may be a Swedish brand but its cars will be built in Germany from next year – and Chevrolets in Poland towards the end of this year.
It’s all a result of what GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster calls “interbuildability” – the global integration of its production.
This has already allowed production of the new Opel GT to start at the GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware, together with its roadster siblings – the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
“From 2008, our plant in Russelsheim will not just be assembling the new Opel [Vectra successor] mid-size class models. Saab models with the same architecture will also be produced there,” he said.
And this could be one of the ways GM Europe will avoid further plant closures.
GM’s European operations, which have shed 13,000 workers in the last two years, must continue to increase productivity despite static demand for their products in Western Europe, said Forster.
GM’s European operations returned to the black last year for the first time since 1999. Operating profit was $US227m (GBP116m).
One solution to prevent further job losses or plant closures would be to find new products to build at existing plants, including Ellesmere Port near Liverpool in England, which last year built 147,542 Astras and Astravans, down from 189,000 in 2005.
A decision on which GM plant will build the new Astra is expected in the next few months and no later than the end of the year, said Forster.
“There could be job losses if we can’t find new products to build here in Europe,” said Forster. “We don’t know which locations might be affected and closing any plant would be an extreme solution.”
GM Europe is already talking to its unions to find solutions that are both socially acceptable and responsible, he added.
Forster also called on European governments to help create a level playing field by intervening over the weakness of the Japanese yen and Korean won against the euro.
“It’s something we have to fight every day and it puts huge competitive pressure on us – it is something governments and politicians should deal with. It’s not something the free market can deal with.”
The currency differential handed far eastern manufacturers a EUR3,000 to EUR4,000 advantage over European makers on every model sold, he said.
He also wants an EU-wide approach to alternative technologies such as incentives for cars powered by bio-fuel and other green cars.
“Different incentives in different markets makes it very difficult for us to deal with,” he said. “An harmonious landscape of incentives would allow us to create the right technology that customers want.”