MUNICH -- Opel plans to build low-priced cars at General Motors Co.'s plant in the northern Russian city of St. Petersburg, German Gref, the CEO of Sberbank, said. Gref said Opel most likely will start building Astra cars at the factory very soon.
GM opened the $300 million St. Petersburg plant in November 2008. It has a 70,000-unit annual capacity and currently builds the Opel Antara and Chevrolet Captiva SUVs.
GM's deal to sell a majority stake in Opel to Russian state lender Sberbank and Magna International Inc. includes the St. Petersburg factory and GM's joint venture factory with Russia's largest carmaker AvtoVAZ in Togliatti. The plant builds the Chevrolet Niva SUV and the Viva, which is based on an old-generation Astra.
Magna's top managers will visit Russia next week to discuss where to build other facilities, Gref told reporters at an event Sochi, adding that Opel would invest 170 million euros in Russia at the first stage and that could be increased to 600 million euros in the future.
Magna and its Russian partner plan an aggressive push into Russia, which is expected to overtake Germany as Europe's biggest market within a few years despite a collapse in car sales during the economic crisis.
Opel's car sales in Russia fell 60.5 percent to 27,767 in the first eight months compared with the year before, according to the Moscow-based Association of European Businesses. The AEB expects 1.4 million cars will be sold in Russia in 2009, down from 3.2 million last year.
Reuters contributed to this report