Opel cuts car production at Bochum plant

Opel, the loss-making German arm of US auto giant General Motors, said on Monday it would halt auto production at its Bochum plant in 2016 but pledged to keep it running as a parts distribution centre.

Opel cuts car production at Bochum plant
Photo: DPA

“Opel management has today informed the workforce that full vehicle production at the Bochum plant will be discontinued after production of the Zafira model is scheduled to cease in 2016,” the statement said.

Opel had already announced in June that it would stop building Zafira cars in Bochum in 2016.

“The main reasons behind this decision are the dramatic decline in the European car market and the enormous overcapacity in the entire industry,” Opel explained. Despite “intensive efforts, we have been unable to change this situation.”

On Friday, the works committee had said the decision could mean the entire site might be shut down with the potential loss of up to 3,000 jobs.

But management insisted that would not be the case and that although vehicle production would cease, Bochum would be used as a parts distribution centre after that date.

Indeed, in its new function, the plant could even be expanded as part of an initiative to secure existing jobs at Bochum and even create new ones.

“It is our clear intention to safeguard the jobs of a significant number of Opel employees in Bochum, said head of GM Europe Steve Girsky.

“Germany is our most important market and, with around 20,000 employees, the backbone and home of our brand. That will remain true in the future,” said Opel deputy chief Thomas Sedran.

Several hundreds of jobs are allegedly set to be created in the new parts distribution centre, but a company spokesman declined to confirm the figure. “Everything is still being negotiated.”

GM estimates it stands to lose more than €1.2 billion on its European operations this year and wants to steer Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall back to profit by 2015.

Opel and Vauxhall are heavily dependent on the European market where industry-wide sales fell by 15 percent in the first nine months, according to data published by the European automobile makers’ association.

The German government expressed “great regret” at Opel’s decision to cease vehicle production at Bochum.

“That’s a terrible blow for the people affected and their families, as well as for Bochum as an industrial site,” said government spokesman Georg Streiter.

“The government regards Opel as a key company in the German automobile sector and expects the parent company General Motors to undertake everything to reach a solution that is socially acceptable,” Streiter told a regular news briefing in Berlin.

He said the government welcomed Opel’s intention to retain and expand Bochum into a logistics centre.

AFP/DAPD/The Local/jcw

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German car sales spike as ‘dieselgate’ effect fades

German car sales enjoyed a strong surge in September, official data showed Wednesday, although the rise was largely attributable to a statistical effect that had weighed on registrations in late 2018.

German car sales spike as 'dieselgate' effect fades
A traffic jam near Munich in July. Photo: DPA

Last month, a total 244,622 vehicles hit the roads, 22.2 percent more than
in September 2018, the KBA transport authority said in a statement.

Growth has been more modest over the year to date, adding 2.5 percent to reach 2.74 million vehicles between January and September.

Over that period, “a higher figure was last achieved in the year 2009,” the VDA industry federation commented in a statement.

The German data therefore mark a bright spot in an industry battling falling demand worldwide.

Dieselgate woes

Last year in September, German sales had been hit when the European Union
introduced new air pollution tests known as WLTP in response to the “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about Germany's dieselgate scandal

Some manufacturers encountered bottlenecks in the certification process,
squeezing sales in the autumn months.

The registrations in September 2018 “showed an unusually low level due to
the transition to the WLTP test procedure,” the VDA confirmed.

Looking to different manufacturers, giant Volkswagen has so far this year
accounted for 18.2 percent of the German market with sales of almost 500,000

Among the high-end carmakers, BMW booked a 7.4-percent share with sales of
202,500 vehicles, while Mercedes-Benz reached 9.1 percent at almost 250,000
cars and VW subsidiary Audi's market share was 7.8 percent with 214,000.

The dieselgate scandal continues to cast a long shadow, with the share of new cars powered by the fuel just below 30 percent in September.

Petrol cars accounted for almost 60 percent, while electrics reached 2.4 percent and hybrids 7.7 percent.

READ ALSO: Frankfurt car show faces protests over SUVs and climate woes