General Motors Europe has begun the process of separating from full GM ownership as part of its plans to raise 3.3 billion euros to ensure its survival.
GM Europe plans to form a joint stock company for its German-based Opel unit and UK sister brand Vauxhall.
The new company would remain linked to GM while letting outside investors take a stake of more than a quarter, GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster told a news conference today.
"GM could be a majority shareholder in the new business structure with more than 50 percent," a GM Europe source told Automotive News Europe.
The source said no decisions have been made on the new business structure. "Today a process has been started," he said.
Forster said Opel is moving to restructure its business with as minimal an impact on jobs as possible but said plant closures could not be ruled out.
GM Europe and Opel's supervisory board approved the restructuring on Friday as part of a long-term plan for the company's viability.
A document presented to the Opel board includes a request for 3.3 billion euros to German and other governments, 3 billion euros in support from GM; and $1.2 billion in structural cost reductions.
Through the restructuring and using conservative market assumptions, GM Europe/Opel aims to become profitable by 2011.
GM Europe said it is working with the German and other governments to answer questions and provide additional information that may be required to move the funding process forward.
"The discussion with governments is being driven by the exceptionally weak economic situation that has seriously eroded consumer demand for vehicles and shut out the availability of credit for financing operations," said Forster in a statement.
"We will work with our labor representatives to find the best way forward in mitigating the societal impact of the restructuring, but it should be made clear that we need all three parts of the plan to be viable - the structural cost reductions, government support and GM support. Anything short of this will not result in a viable operation," Forster said.
The plan has now been submitted to the German government and the governments in Belgium, Spain and the UK where Opel/Vauxhall has plants.
GM Europe said it remained open to discussions on partnerships, equity positions or other alignments that will strengthen the relative position of Opel/GM.
The company said: "Opel remains an integral and important part of GM's global operations and will continue as such in the future."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing an election in September, wants to save as many of the roughly 25,000 German jobs at Opel as possible and the government has said it will consider granting financing guarantees once it has seen the revamp plan.