MUNICH -- General Motors Co. will integrate its Russian operations into its GM Europe business in a move that will help the automaker's struggling Opel brand.
Russia is forecast to surpass Germany as Europe's biggest new-car market within five years despite a recent slowdown in the country's economy that has led forecasters to predict a 5 percent drop in vehicle sales to 2.79 million this year.
"This is the right decision at the right time. Russia is an important part of the European market and for Opel it is the third biggest market in Europe," Karl-Thomas Neumann, GM Europe President and Opel CEO, said in a statement on Friday.
GM's business in Russia is currently run by GM International Operations based in Shanghai.
Not only will Opel's own sales in Russia be consolidated at GM Europe, so will those of Chevrolet, which sells more than twice as many cars in Russia, and GM's premium brand, Cadillac.
Chevrolet is Russia's fifth best-selling car brand with nine-month sales of 127,742 units, down 17 percent, according to the Moscow-based Association of of European Businesses. Opel was the No. 12 brand with sales of 60,045, down 2 percent. Cadillac sales were down 32 percent to 1,124.