The European element of General Motors‘ restructuring plan is a “work in progress”, a spokesman said on Wednesday.


The plan, filed with the US government last night, said GM needed to make US$1.2bn in savings in Europe, described as “a relatively costly restructuring environment”, including “several possible closures or spinoffs of manufacturing facilities in high cost locations” and would restructure its sales organisation to become more brand-focused and make better use of advertising.


GM UK and Ireland communications chief Denis Chick said the the latest plan was “US centric”.


“We’ve done the working time reductions in the plants and are about to do the same for the relatively small number of staff in the rest of the operation.


“The next steps now are General Motors Europe (GME)-driven.”


He said discussions with unions had been going on since October and plans such as a four-day week at the large Astra plant at Ellesmere Port (near Liverpool) were already in place.


“If we have to make changes now because the market is still declining, what’s the next step? [GME chief] Carl-Peter Forster has already put on record that the next steps could be more extraordinary which is plant closures and redundancies but we’re not there yet.


“We’ve cut a huge amount of cost out of the business, we’ve got the plants now running more efficiently,  four days at Ellesmere Port, for example, and we’ve avoided redundancy.


“That’s fine if the market was now stable but it’s not, that’s the trouble. So, who knows?


Chick said there was no definitive answer to questions such as ‘what about the plants?’.


“We can’t say. I can’t say they’re safe, I can’t say they’re not because we haven’t got far enough with our negotiations.”


Earlier reports had suggested Opel plants in Bochum, Germany, and Antwerp, Belgium were at risk, along with a Saab plant in Sweden and possibly Vauxhall‘s Ellesmere Port facility.


GME has asked for liquidity support from European governments.


Asked if GM would sell Opel, GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner has said no buyers have approached GM.


“With Opel we’re in the midst of working with various parties including the German government on all options,” he has said.


GM has forecast its European business would not post a profit before 2011 after cost cuts that could include plant closures.


“Similar to the US, the company’s European operations are also expected to produce significant negative earnings and cash flow in 2009 and 2010,” GM said.


Operations in Europe were expected to produce positive financial results in 2011-2014.