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Lutz shakes up GM Europe

Zafira will be built in Poland as well as Germany

Ruesselsheim, Germany. Adam Opel is restructuring its future production following pressure from Bob Lutz, General Motors Europe's interim CEO.

As part of the shakeup, the successor to the Opel Zafira compact van will be built in Gleiwitz, Poland in addition to Bochum, Germany.

The news is a blow for Opel's Ruesselsheim plant, which also wanted the contract.

GM executives wanted to build the Zafira in a second plant besides Bochum to release extra capacity at Bochum for production of the new Astra.

Moving some of the Zafira production to Poland will also cut costs. Opel's high fixed costs were a major factor in GM Europe's $116 million loss in the first quarter.

Lutz told Automobilwoche that "radical cuts" will be made to give GM Europe a clear structure and lower costs. Areas of responsibility with GM Europe's operations also will be restructured.

Fritz Henderson, who takes over as CEO of GM Europe on June 1, will announce fuller details in July.

Opel CEO Carl-Peter Forster said the company will "fine-tune" its production capacities to achieve better utilization of the plants.

Production of 30,000 Vectra GTS units will be moved from GM Europe's Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port in England to Ruesselsheim, which manufactures all Vectra body versions.

Production of the right-hand-drive GTS models and the five-door Astra will remain at Ellesmere Port.

Antwerp, which manufactures all Astra body versions, will start production of the new Astra convertible in January 2006. The current model is built by Bertone in Italy.

Lutz plans to increase GM's manufacturing flexibility in the long-term.

Each of the worldwide GM plants will build models with the same component matrix, such as the Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra, on the same production line.

The goal is that productivity will increase, and demand and exchange rate fluctuations can be balanced more efficiently.

"Who says that a Saab has to be manufactured in Sweden," Lutz said.

A high ranking GM Europe manager said: "None of our plants will only produce cars of one GM brand in the future."

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