RUESSELSHEIM -- Opel plans to cut hundreds of jobs in product engineering in Germany, Automotive News Europe has learned.
The cuts come as owner General Motors Co. presses its European unit to reduce costs further to ensure the money-losing unit returns to profitability even in a European market heading toward recession.
To reduce labor costs, Opel plans to slash up to 1,420 product engineering posts at its international technical development center in Ruesselsheim, near Frankfurt, according to an internal letter drawn up by the IG Metall union and obtained by Automotive News Europe.
An Opel spokesman told ANE the number mentioned by IG Metall is "factually wrong and excessively high" because it includes people who are not on Opel's payroll – like employees of service providers and supplier employees. He declined to provide a figure for the actually number of job cuts, but said the automaker will need fewer employees as a result of plans to improve efficiency in product development.
According to ANE sources, at least 200 employees will be offered severance payments when 550 positions are transferred to the manufacturing engineering department from product engineering. This would translate into at least 750 fewer posts in product engineering.
The technical center employs a little more than 6,000 people who develop vehicles for Opel and GM globally.
The spokesman said Opel's efficiency drive focuses on three areas:
• Stronger concentration on the carmaker's core development mission and a reduction in project coordination tasks
• Increased use of modules and construction kits. "For example, we still have too many steering and seating systems. We have to improve significantly here," the spokesman said.
• Deeper and earlier integration of suppliers. "There are no plans to put a stranglehold on our suppliers -- we need to increasingly rely on suppliers' innovative strengths," the spokesman said.
Other cost-cutting measures, according to IG Metall, include reducing levels of management and cutting the number of changes during the company's global vehicle development process.
Some new models will also be stopped, according to ANE sources. These include the Opel Coupe planned for 2013. The battery powered version of the Opel Junior minicar will also be scrapped and a decision on whether to build the RAK e two-seat electric vehicle unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show in September has been postponed to next year. In October, Opel told ANE that the decision would be made this year and the car "could be launched as early as 2013" at a price of 10,000 – 12,000 euros.