BRUSSELS - GM is considering building a new greenfield factory to replace its oldest and largest factory in Europe.
The new factory proposal is one of two scenarios for modernizing production of the sprawling, two-story Opel plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany.
Funding for a brownfield revamp of Ruesselsheim has already been approved.
In the employment, pay and benefits pact signed in January with German unions, GM agreed to invest DM750 million ($410 million) in Ruesselsheim. The pact specifically committed GM to building a new paint shop there.
A new plant would require an additional investment of only DM200 million, said a spokesman.
Both the greenfield and brownfield plans are under review and a decision is expected by mid-year. GM insiders said there is growing support for the all-new factory to make Opel manufacturing more competitive.
If approved, the new plant would begin production in 2002, to coincide with the changeover of the Vectra model now produced at Ruesselsheim.
The factory would also continue to make the Omega.
Under GM's new global platform strategy, the successor for the large car would no longer have its own unique platform but would come off a stretched Vectra platform.
This would mean production at Ruesselsheim would remain at the current annual capacity of 275,000 units.
That production level was guaranteed through 2002 in the union contract.
The opening of the new factory would also coincide with the expiration of the current four-year union contract, giving GM more muscle in negotiating the pact for its ultra-lean plant.
The union was given job guarantees only until 2002, paving the way for further reduction of the workforce.
Under the newest agreement, 3,000 to 4,000 jobs will be lost at Ruesselsheim by 2001 through retirements.
The factory currently has 24,980 workers.