GM sticks to plan for all-new model at Opel's Ruesselsheim plant

Barra: Confident about Opel's future.

Photo credit: Bloomberg
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RUESSELSHEIM -- General Motors Co. is sticking to plans for its Opel unit to build an all-new vehicle at the brand's main plant in Germany as part of an effort to restore earnings in Europe, CEO Mary Barra said.

Opel is "clearly a vital part of the company," Barra, 52, told journalists today at the division's headquarters in the Frankfurt suburb of Ruesselsheim.

Barra said the company will not release details about the new model yet for competitive reasons.

Opel said on Dec. 12 that the Ruesselsheim plant, which makes the Insignia mid-sized car and is scheduled to start building the Zafira Tourer van in 2015, will be assigned a new model whose details will be disclosed later.

Production of the new vehicle will "go hand-in-hand" with additional spending in Germany, Barra said, adding that she's "very pleased with Opel's progress so far."

Barra, the first female CEO of a global automaker, is making her first trip outside the U.S. since succeeding Dan Akerson as head of GM on Jan. 15. Barra was head of product development under Akerson.

"I thought it was very important to reinforce in person my commitment, and GM's commitment, to Opel. I'm confident that we can achieve our goal to break-even in Europe by mid-decade," Barra said in a statement.

In April 2013, GM said it would invest 4 billion euros ($5.5 billion) to fund 23 new models and 13 new engines by 2016 to overhaul Opel's aging product range.

Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann said Barra's decision to choose Opel as the first GM location to visit outside the company's Detroit headquarters reinforced the importance of the unit to GM.

Barra today met with Opel employees, toured the assembly plant and visited Opel's technical development center.

European sales by Opel and sister brand Vauxhall last year fell 2 percent to 825,000 vehicles, according to industry group ACEA. Their market share remained steady at 6.7 percent, making them together the third-biggest automotive marque in Europe, after the namesake brand of Volkswagen Group and Ford Motor Co.

GM decided in December to pull Chevrolet out of Europe, reversing a decade-old sales effort to promote the U.S. nameplate in the region, to give Opel more scope to expand. Opel will shut its car plant in Bochum, Germany, by the end of this year, the first automotive assembly plant to close in the country since World War I.

Barra visited Ruesselsheim with GM's new president, Dan Ammann, who has been nominated to succeed Steve Girsky as chairman of Opel's supervisory board. Girsky, GM's former vice chairman, has led the supervisory board since November 2011.

Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report

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