HAMBURG -- General Motors' German unit Opel expects to sell more new Astra compacts in Europe this year than originally anticipated, GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster told journalists.
"We will sell more than 200,000 (new) Astras," Forster said on Wednesday night during the unveiling of three new GM models.
Sales of the new Astra would not exceed 230,000 this year due to capacity constraints, he added. His comments were embargoed for Thursday.
The company had originally set a target of 200,000 units of the model, which Opel sales chief Uhland Burkart said has emerged from a dip in new orders following a strong sales start earlier this year.
Opel has orders for 160,000 Astras, which will keep factories producing until October.
The new Astra is competing head on with Volkswagen's Golf V. The VW model saw a slow start but sales have picked up after the company began offering free air conditioning as an incentive.
The company expects to sell between 65,000 and 70,000 new Astras in Germany alone, including roughly 15,000 estates called the Astra Caravan due to hit showrooms in mid-October.
Opel expects to expand its market share in Europe to 10.7 percent in 2004. According to Brussels-based industry group ACEA, Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall had a share of 9.2 percent in western Europe last year.
Forster reiterated GM Europe's aim to reach profitability in 2004 after years of losses, but said that this would be a difficult target to reach.
The European arm of GM posted a loss of 286 million euros ($353.7 million) in 2003.