Opel shuffles models to reduce overcapacity

Opel will adjust its manufacturing overcapacity problem by shifting models among four plants in Germany, Spain and Belgium and cutting one shift of production at two of the plants.

Opel will swap models at Zaragossa, Spain; Antwerp, Belgium; and the German plants of Eisenach and Bochum. It will eliminate one shift of Astra production at both the Antwerp and Bochum plants.

The model merry-go-round was agreed to before the Olympia turnaround program started this spring. The shift elimination has been negotiated with Opel unions more recently.

"We have an installed capacity of 2.1 million units, of which we currently use 1.85 million," said Ditmar Porth, board member for manufacturing at Opel and GM Europe. "An adjustment to the installed capacity can be done in a sensible way only when introducing a new model. What we need to do now is adjust the capacity being used, where we are talking about cutting out 100,000 units."

Under the model shift, Opel will build the future so-called monocab minivan based on the Corsa at Zaragossa.

Next, Opel will shift half of the Corsa production from Zaragossa to Eisenach. Eisenach is ramping up to take over some of Bochum's Astra production, but Eisenbach will stop building the Astra model as soon as the Corsa moves into Eisenach in late 2002.

This volume of Astra cars plus the volume of one shift in Bochum and Antwerp will account for most of the 100,000 units of capacity reduction. It takes about 1,200 employees to build 100,000 units annually. Opel is expected to avoid any forced layoffs by using natural attrition or early-retirement packages.

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