BOCHUM, Germany/ELLESMERE PORT, England -- A golden anniversary is usually cause for celebration, but at General Motors Co.'s car plants at Bochum in western Germany and Ellesmere Port in northwest England, the talk is of closure, not their openings in 1962.
Economic weakness across much of Europe has hit car sales, forcing the sector to address a capacity overhang. GM CEO Dan Akerson estimates that manufacturers have 10 plants too many across Europe.
Though Opel/Vauxhall has said none of its plants will go before the end of 2014, most expect the 50-year-old factory at Bochum and the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port, the company's only remaining car plant in Britain, will be earmarked for closure.
Opel's supervisory board met in private on Wednesday, but it was not clear whether plant closures were discussed. A statement issued by the company after the meeting said Opel's management and staff are committed to continue the dialogue with each other in order to identify the best possible strategy to improve the company's financial performance.
"No further announcements will be made at this time," the statement said.
"All signs point towards escalation regardless," said one source close to the board before the meeting, who said plant closures would be the elephant in the room even if they weren't discussed.
Akerson and Opel Chairman Steve Girsky are pushing Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke to lower the company's breakeven point by shifting production from high-wage countries in western Europe to emerging markets.