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GM Europe boss sees high sales potential in Russia

Sources rule out factory closures at Opel in Germany

Zurich. Fritz Henderson, General Motors Europe chairman, sees huge potential for his company in the Russian market and in the bottom end of the European automotive market.

Henderson hopes for an annual growth of "more than 2 percent" in western Europe in the years through 2010. This would mean "more than 32,000 additional sales if market share remains the same" for GM Europe alone.

In a letter to GM Europe staff, a copy of which was made available to Automobilwoche, Henderson asks his staff to battle for "every tenth of a percent of market share" to turn from "hunted into hunter."

There is already a glimmer of hope, apparently. There are "more than 26,000 orders" for the new Astra Caravan. Orders have "increased significantly" during the past four weeks.

The letter says that, since the beginning of 2004, GM Europe's sales rose by 30,000 units or 2.4 percent, whereas the overall market only grew by 2.3 percent.

Henderson said Chevrolet will play an important role in future sales growth. The brand should have the "largest share" in growth in Russia. "Our target is a market share of 15 percent by 2010." Current market share is only around 5 percent.

In Germany, negotiations over the company's restructuring plans seem to have become less tense. According to information from GM Europe headquarters in Zurich, plant closures are no longer being considered.

This results from concessions by employee representatives regarding working hours and wage costs.

Klaus Franz, the head of the Opel works council, has offered to increase the Opel management's room to vary working hours between 30 and 40 hours a week -- "at an average payment for 35 hours."

The negotiations should be finalized by the end of the month. Zurich headquarters will announce detailed plans during the first quarter of 2005.

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