General Motors Corp looks set to cut salaried jobs as the automotive slump in Europe and the US continues to rock the company’s sales.

The prospect of white collar job losses comes from a leaked letter sent by GM chief executive Rick Wagoner and chief operating officer Fritz Henderson to executives.

“The global economic outlook remains very concerning. As a result, actions are being taken throughout GM’s global operations to address our increasing need to conserve cash,” Wagoner and Henderson said in the letter.

“Here in the US, we need to reduce our salaried and contract workforce by even more than we anticipated. In this regard, we expect to initiate involuntary separations in some areas of the business, late this year and early in 2009.”

The letter did not stipulate the scale of the cutbacks, but it also revealed the company was to unveil a change to salaried employee benefits. These will include the suspension of a stock savings match and other reimbursement programmes.

“We regret needing to take these actions, but they are necessary based upon current business conditions,” the letter said.

Earlier this week, General Motors’ German unit Opel declined to comment on a local newspaper report it may extend production suspensions to all of its European plants for several weeks in November and December.

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Opel Bochum plant union official Rainer Einenkel as saying GM was considering a plant shutdown for the two last weeks in November and again from 15 December to the end of the year.

Also this week, the US motor giant confirmed it had retained Merrill Lynch to assist in exploring a potential sale of ACDelco, its global independent aftermarket parts business and a brand of GM Service & Parts Operations.

“A sale is expected to promote more rapid growth of ACDelco globally,” GM said.