Opel denies that German jobs at risk if PSA develops new Zafira minivan
MUNICH -- General Motors Co.'s Opel/Vauxhall unit dismissed media reports that jobs at its Ruesselsheim, Germany, engineering center are at risk under plans to transfer development of the next Zafira minivan to GM's new alliance partner, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, in France.
The move was reported by Spiegel magazine and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, which both said hundreds of jobs are at risk at the center, near Frankfurt.
The center has 4,500 employees and develops GM's global architectures for compact and mid-size cars, including the Buick Regal and Chevrolet Cruze sedans and Opel Astra hatchback.
Reacting to the reports, Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke said there will be no job losses in the Ruesselsheim engineering center due to the GM-PSA alliance.
"As part of the initial announcement earlier this year, GM/Opel and PSA stated their intent to cooperate in several areas including product development," Stracke said in a statement. "Whatever the final split will be among the agreed common projects, no jobs will be lost in the engineering center in Ruesselsheim due to the alliance, in fact, the nature of the alliance is that it is a balanced one."
Last year, the Zafira was Opel's fifth best-selling model in Europe with a volume of 72,064, down 20 percent from the year before, according to researchers JATO Dynamics. The third-generation Zafira, called the Tourer, launched late last year.
First joint project
German reports on Thursday had said that moving development of the next-generation Zafira to PSA is the first joint project agreed by GM and the French automaker.
Opel will also move some office work to Poland, leading to the loss of 150 to 200 jobs, Spiegel said.
GM and PSA formed an alliance earlier this year to share costs and achieve economies of scale. They plan to build some vehicles together as soon as 2016.
The two automakers have said subcompact cars such as the Opel Corsa and the Citroen C3 will be based on PSA technology, while mid-sized cars such as the Opel Insignia and the Citroen C5 and Peugeot 508 would draw on GM platforms.
PSA Director General Frederic Saint-Geours told an Italian newspaper that the companies will jointly develop a compact minivan, along with a raft of new models on shared platforms starting in 2016.
"We will launch a D-segment car, a crossover, a compact minivan, and two models in the B- and C-segments," he said in an interview with Corriere della Sera on Wednesday. "After that, we will launch a shared-platform eco-friendly car."
Analysts said that given the long lead time of about four years that auto companies typically need when planning new vehicles, GM and PSA must already be discussing the next round of vehicles on which they will cooperate.
Opel is under pressure from GM to cut costs and reduce excess capacity as its vehicle sales fall in Europe. In the first quarter, volume at Opel and UK sister brand Vauxhall fell 16 percent to 227,590 in the EU and EFTA countries, according industry body ACEA. Total industry sales dropped 7 percent.
GM's operating loss in Europe for the first quarter was $256 million.
Reuters contributed to this story
You can reach Paul McVeigh at email@example.com.