"If Opel didn't exist, we would have to invent it," said GM boss Rick Wagoner in an interview with Stern magazine.

Wagoner was referring to the research and development capabilities at Opel, and the fact that these competences will be used to help bring the US company through the current financial crisis.

"The contribution of Opel is more important now than ever before, because of its competence in the small and medium segments, which are growing strongly."

US consumers are suddenly as interested in fuel consumption as European manufacturers have been for a long time.