GM to close Opel factory in Antwerp

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General Motors (GM) today announced plans to close its Opel auto production plant in Antwerp, Belgium with the loss of around 2,600 jobs.

According to a statement, the decision to close the Antwerp plant was taken in view of current capacity, planned product portfolio, timing requirements and financial impact. If closure is confirmed, production will terminate in the next few months.

Chief executive Nick Reilly said: ‘We fully understand the effect this announcement has on the Antwerp employees and their families and we sympathise with them. Many have been dedicated to the plant over generations and have done an excellent job producing great quality cars.’

Over the next year, the west European car market is forecast to be 1.5 million vehicles below 2009 levels and almost four million below its peak in 2007. Opel said that it does not expect vehicle production to return to peak levels anytime soon, if ever, and therefore expects to reduce its capacity by 20 per cent to ensure long-term sustainability.

Reilly added: ‘The decision to announce this today was not taken lightly; instead it is the unfortunate result of the current business reality. We must make this announcement now so that we can secure a viable future for the entire Opel and Vauxhall operations.’

GM had previously announced that it was planning to sell its European operations to Canadian car-parts maker, Magna, and Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank. In November, the company issued a statement saying that it reversed its decision because of the ‘improving business environment’ for GM over the past few months.

Antwerp Fact Sheet

Currently 2,606 employees, representing about five per cent of the Opel/Vauxhall European workforce, work at the Antwerp plant, building Astra three-door, TwinTop and station wagon models.

In 2009, 88,873 Opel Astra cars were built there; some 96 per cent of the production was slated for export.

It was founded in 1924 under the name General Motors Continental. The first Chevrolet was built there April 2, 1925.

The Antwerp plant has been mainly responsible for building various models of the Opel Manta, Ascona, Kadett, Vectra and Astra cars as well as components. To date, more than 13 million cars and trucks have been built at the site.