Future of Opel's Bochum plant still uncertain
CEO Stracke will present Europe-wide restructuring plan on June 28
BOCHUM, Germany -- The future of Opel's factory in Bochum, Germany, remains uncertain after CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke gave no guarantees that the plant will escape closure under restructuring to end losses at General Motors Co.'s European division.
Stracke told Bochum's workers today that he planned to stick with a labor agreement valid through 2014 and had not made any decision yet on what will happen after that.
"There is no decision for Bochum beyond 2014," Stracke said in a 20-minute speech at a closed-door meeting with staff, as workers booed him.
Stracke said he will present a plan for the carmaker's Europe-wide business to Opel's supervisory board on June 28.
There is concern that Bochum is at risk after Opel's decision last week to pull production of its Astra compact car from Germany.
Opel said it will build the next generation Astra only at its plants in Ellesmere Port, England, and Gliwice in Poland, from 2015, halting Astra production at Opel's main plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany.
The move would likely mean production of the Zafira minivan would then be shifted from Bochum to Ruesselheim, leading to fears that Bochum will be closed.
Reports have said that some production of GM's Chevrolet brand could be shifted from Asia to Europe, with Ruesselsheim the likely beneficiary.
"Demand for Opel vehicles across Europe plunged 16 percent in the first three months of the year. That's why GM will reduce capacities," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. "I expect the Bochum factory to be shut down after 2014."
Bochum has a production capacity of around 160,000 cars a year. The plant builds older variants of the Astra hatchback and station wagon for central and eastern European markets, as well as the Zafira.
In addition to Ellesmere Port, Ruesselsheim, Bochum and Gliwice, Opel has two more plants in Germany and one each in the UK, Poland, Austria, Hungary and Spain.
In 2010, the automaker closed a plant at Antwerp, Belgium, that also built the Astra.
GM has been pressuring workers at each Opel site for concessions after the European business had an adjusted operating loss of $256 million in the first quarter compared with a $5 million profit a year earlier.
Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg and Automotive News EuropeContact Automotive News